posted on 15-Jun-2002 12:14:28 PM
Title: Truth Doesn't Make A Noise.
Category: M/L with some CC
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Max is entranced by the mysterious young woman that moves into town.. (Yes, I suck at summaries... but it's different. ^_^)
Part 1

The day they moved in was the day that the gossip started. Not just gossip at the local highschool, but gossip throughout the whole suburb. The neighborhood had their own thoughts on the Parker family. One of the rumors was that the parents were overly strict and kept their daughter home and under their watchful gaze at all times. Another was that their daughter was a prodigy who was way above the average teenager's brain capacity. Max, he could care less about some new family in town. He'd heard enough rumors about enough new families to last a lifetime and frankly, it was just a way to surpass the boredom of everyday life.

Max sat outside on his porch putting a new roll of film into his camera. For his senior year he decided to take photography... more of a blow-off class than anything else. He was surprised when he actually ENJOYED what he was doing... who would have thought that Max Evans.. Mr. Could Give A Shit Less about anything would enjoy taking snapshots of everything. His teacher, Mrs. Reed, had taken him aside one day and told him his pictures were unlike any she had seen before by any fellow students. He had this way of capturing the true essence of the photos. In people; he captured their emotions, their beauty. In scenery, he captured the slightest oddity in a leaf; and turned it into a beautiful creation. His pictures were unique, and his pictures were pure. Max smirked at the thought of his teacher telling him he was a good photographer, that was the first compliment he had ever gotten. His parents were okay, they just were never home. His dad was always away for business trips and his mother spent an abundant amount of time at some shelter for messed up kids.

Max set the camera in focus and zoomed in on the house across the street from his with the lovely little white picket fence... this was the Parker's home. He saw the drapes to one of the rooms rustle and zoomed in more when he saw a girl with long brown hair draped around her face, almost as if to hide herself. Her eyes were blank, unknowing, uncaring, and with blankly out the window. Max snapped a shot, thinking this would make a good black and white photo. The girl inside the window continued to stare, and Max had this sudden urge to walk to her house, stand directly in front of that window and stare back at her. His curiousity was sparked.


"Liz honey, dinner's ready" Came a sweet, surprisingly calm voice from behind her. Liz continued to stare blankly out the window. The voice behind her sighed sadly and gently touched her shoulder. Liz suddenly whipped around and jumped back a few feet, as if she had been burnt. The woman gazed at Liz, into her eyes that looked so lost, so frightened, and she had to swallow before she could regain her strength to speak. "Liz, please eat dinner with us." Liz nodded her head and walked into the kitchen, taking a seat and began staring blankly at the fan above the table. She watched it move, over and over, it's steady rhythm calming her from reality. She was in a different world. She was in her own little world.

Elizabeth was home schooled, which Max later found out when she hadn't been to school after a month of settling into the new house. He saw her once in a while, staring out the window with that same blank expression as always. He never really got a good look at her, all he could see was a slight glimpse of her face hidden behind her dark hair. He continued to take pictures of her, he just wanted to capture the truth behind her face. He wanted to know her emotions, he wanted to know who she was. He wondered if it was even possible. The Parkers seemed like very private people. In fact, he hardly ever seen anybody leave the house.

Max walked into his house and was surprised to find his mother there.

"Hey Max, I was just about to leave. I left a list of things we need from the grocery store." His mother stated, not even giving him a glance. Okay, so maybe he wasn't surprised.

"See ya" He said as she grabbed her purse and scurried out the door. His mother hadn't cared about him at all. He found it ironic that she spend her time at a shelter helping kids when he himself felt alone most of the time. She'd always leave post it notes for him, directions on how to make food for himself, directions on what to buy at the grocery store and so on and so forth.

A few minutes after his mother left he went to the freezer and looked for a frozen pizza he could heat up. Sadly, he realized he'd have to get the groceries sooner than later. He reluctantly got in his car and drove off to the local grocery store. He swept through the aisle quickly, grabbing everything listed, as well as a couple DiGiorno pizzas for himself when he saw an elderly woman attempting to reach up to get ice cream. The look of determination on the woman's face made him walk over to her and ask her if she needed help.

"You're too kind" The woman responded.

"Umm, which flavor do you want?" Max asked. The elderly woman's eyes flickered in sadness for a moment before she responded.

"Vanilla." She said, then lowered her voice and added "It's my granddaughter's favorite flavor." Max reached the top shelf and grabbed vanilla, handing it to the elderly woman. "Thank you..."

"Max. My name's Max Evans" He hadn't seen this woman before and vaguely wondered if she was in the Parker household. He had wanted to ask, but didn't want to be rude about it. The elderly woman smiled.

"Evans. I believe you live down the street from me. I'm Claudia Parker."

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Parker", Max said as he extended his hand for a handshake.

"Oh, please call me Claudia. Mrs. Parker makes me feel so old" Max couldn't help but smile at the woman's sense of humor. "Well, I better get home. Thank you for helping me, Max."

As Max drove home he spotted her walking down the street with only the ice cream in her hands. He saw sweat on the woman's face from the heat and figured the ice cream would melt by the time she got home due to the sun's harsh rays. He pulled over and rolled down the window.

"Mrs. Par..err, Claudia, would you like a ride?" The woman didn't hesitate and walked to the passenger side, opening the door and getting in.

"Thank you, I hope the ice cream didn't melt too much". Max drove in silence for the next 5 minutes and pulled into the woman's driveway. Claudia got out of the car and invited him inside for some lemonade. Max was surprised, he had heard enough rumors about the Parkers being cold and distant from people. He decided to go inside, maybe he'd get a glimpse of the girl who was always staring out the window.

He walked inside and the first feeling that came to him was coziness. The house was kind of dark, with it's grandfather clock ticking away in consistent time and everything perfectly in place. The house was spotless, and he made his way into the kitchen and sat down as Claudia poured them lemonade and seated herself down across from him.

"I would appreciate it if you'd stop taking pictures of my granddaughter" she said out of nowhere. Max almost choked on his lemonade, as a slight blush covered his face. He couldn't think of anything to say, and the woman laughed. "It's best to leave her alone." She said as the laughter quickly faded and was replaced with a sadness in her eyes.

"I don't know if I can" Max found himself saying what he was thinking. The woman looked away, wondering if this young man was what her granddaughter needed. But the burden was too big, and the emotional conflicts raging through her granddaughter's brain were too great.

"Max, you haven't even talked to her.."

"It's her eyes, they're so... blank" The woman's eyes welled up with tears and she had the remember to breathe.

"You're quite the perceptive one" She stated.

Just when Max began feeling guilty, he heard the squeak of a door opening and watched as the girl walked straight to the window and stared outside. Max realized she wasn't a girl. She was a woman. She had the body of a woman, but she looked so small, so fragile. He felt this... need to go over to her, to just get a better look at her. But as he took slow steps towards her, he felt a hand rush to his arm and firmly hault his movements.

"You'll scare her" Claudia said. He stood in place as Claudia then moved to the young woman's side and said calmly

"Liz, honey, I want you to meet someone." So they call her Liz, Max thought. He waited for her to turn around, acknowledge him perhaps. When she didn't, Claudia gave him a sympathetic look, and tried again, "Elizabeth". Liz blinked, and turned around. It was at that moment when Max met her eyes in close proximity that he realized she was beautiful.

Part 2

Her large doe eyes continued to stare. Max couldn't tell if she even noticed him, it seemed like she was looking beyond him, fixing her gaze on some immanent object. He couldn't bring himself to say a single word. The look on her face made him feel an overwhelming amount of pain within from just looking at that blank stare on her expressionless face. He wanted to see those soft lips smile, he wanted to see those chocolate eyes sparkle, and most of all he wanted to hear the sweetness of her voice. He hadn't heard one word from her, and had a feeling he wouldn't be hearing any for a long time. If ever.

Claudia stood in the background observing Max's expressions, and she knew that if anyone could help her granddaughter, he would be the one. From the look on his face, he cared for her. She smiled slightly at the thought of her granddaughter once again holding the compassion and spirit of a young child. Her smile quickly faded when her thoughts drifted off to the last time she remembered Liz being that jovial, innocent child she so desperately missed.

"Gramma, where is my brother?" Came the curious voice of an 8 year old. Claudia blinked back her tears as she tried to explain.
"Lizzie, your brother won't be back." Liz turned her head slightly to the side and furrowed her brow like a puppy trying to differentiate what it's owner is saying. She held that look as she felt a weariness take hold of her thoughts.
"Is he with the angels?" Claudia nodded, unable to speak, and finally broke down into sobs. "So there's only one me now?" Liz asked sadly.
"I'm sorry, honey, your twin.. is gone."
"Up there?" Liz asked, pointing her tiny, shaky index finger towards the sky. Claudia nodded, and realization dawned on Liz. Her large doe eyes filled with gloomy tears as she ran into the comfort of her grandmother's arms. "K.. Kyle is gone forever" Came the delicate words of a child losing her innocence. Forever.


"Elizabeth" came a dreamlike voice, snapping Claudia out of her reverie. She looked to Max and Liz, who were still standing across from one another. Claudia quietly made her way into the other room so Max wouldn't see the fresh tears now forming in her eyes, although he proabably wouldn't have noticed considering the intensity of his gaze on her granddaughter.

Liz blinked at hearing her name, and Max had to stop himself from reaching out to touch her. He didn't want to scare her.

"Liz?" Her eyes looked into his, and at that point he felt a tug on his heart. His instincts took over and he gently reached out his hand to touch her arm. She flinched at the touch, but didn't back away. Her gaze moved down to his hand and slowly returned to his eyes with a cold stare. The look on her face intimidated him and made him pull his hand back.

"I'm sorry." He said softly, but his words were drowned out by the steady sound of a guitar. Liz turned towards the sound coming from the backyard and walked towards it while Max followed closely behind. He knew who was playing, and smirked as he finally saw his old friend Alex sitting against an oak tree strumming the melancholy notes to Aerosmith's "Dream On". He watched Liz, and for a brief moment her eyes seemed to light up. The moment came and gone so quickly that he wasn't sure if he'd been imagining it or not. Claudia came out of her room and walked behind Liz, smiling as she too watched Alex play his guitar.

After the song finished Elizabeth turned and retreated to her room, shutting the door behind her. Max couldn't help but wonder what was going on in her mind.

"Claudia.. she can talk, right?" Max asked. Claudia sighed brokenly before answering,

"She hasn't spoken in 4 years." Max swallowed, as he looked towards Liz's bedroom door.

"How.. how old is she?"

"17" Claudia looked towards Liz's bedroom door and knew this had to be a moment between grandmother and granddaughter.

"I.. better get going. I'm sorry" Max said quietly. He took a breath and went to let himself out knowing he shouldn't ask any more questions. He'd find out the truth when they were willing to tell him. He wouldn't push. He would wait. He would wait because Elizabeth Parker was worth it.


When Max got outside, he could still hear Alex's guitar and debated on whether to speak to him or not. He decided on the latter, not wanting to bother Alex and his love of the guitar. It'd be like someone interrupting him taking photographs, and he couldn't do it. Besides, he hadn't spoken to Alex much, with the exception of the occasional "Hey man, what's up?" in the hallways, since his sophomore year. Max began walking towards his house thinking back to when he had turned into Mr. Football hero. He hated the sport, couldn't stand it in fact, but he tried out and made the team to impress his parents. Unfortunately, his parents didn't seem to care about the time when he got all A's and was highschool's favorite football player. He sucked at the game, but the girls still loved him, and when the girls hung all over him, the guys hung out with him to get into the girls' pants. When he transformed into Mr. Popular, he dropped his best friend Alex and spent his time with the football team. Max felt bad ending the only real friendship he'd had for such a superficial thing that only made him more alone in the long run. Now, he was no longer Mr. Football, he was no longer getting all A's, and he no longer had a flock of girls at his side. All thanks to a Sean DeLuca moving in and claiming the "bad boy" roll along with the bitchy blond Tess Harding, whose last name held a second meaning.. to many.. many guys. =)

Max opened the door to his house and the first words that came out of his mouth were...

"Who the hell are you?"

Part 3

Max looked scrutinizingly at the guy going through his refrigerator. He had on faded ripped jeans and a Metallica shirt. His hair was fairly long and a dirty blonde color. His eyes were cold and hard, and Max felt slightly intimidated, but he wouldn't show it in his own home.

Mr. Metallica rolled his eyes, and responded

"Prick" Max blinked. He was beginning to get furious, some mysterious guy shows up in his house, scrounging around his refrigerator, and finally calls him a prick. The breaking point was when Mr. "Metallica" opened the freezer and took out a DiGiorno pizza.

"That's it". Max tackled the intruder and pinned him to the floor. "I'm serious. What the fuck are you doing in MY house?" Max leaned his elbow back and made a fist, ready to smash the guy's face in when he was interrupted..

"MAX! What in God's name are you doing?" Max leaped up at the voice


"So Michael, I see you've already met my son Max." She gave Max a look of disappointment before continuing, "Michael's from the Shelter, and he's going to be living here for a while." She smiled warmly at Michael.

Max's jaw dropped open. Here his mother was, the woman who was never there for him, the woman who never encouraged him to do anything, helping some low-life kid. He clenched his jaw and spoke forcefully

"So why isn't he staying in the Shelter?" Diane gave Michael another smile as she grabbed Max, excused them, and went to the other room.

"Michael... well, he.. doesn't like people very much."

"Ha" Max snorted. "That's not a surprise to me."

"I just thought it'd be good for him to live with us, away from all the kids from the Shelter."

As Max was listening to his mother talk, he realized this was the most she'd spoken to him in what seemed like forever. Maybe she never realized the abandonment he felt from her. He glanced into the kitchen at Michael and felt jealous. Jealous that his mother was willing to help some other kid, and not be there for himself. And so Max decided to do what he always did. Smile and nod.

"Okay mom, I guess that'd be good for him."

"Now go and apologize"

Max gritted his teeth in trying to control his anger and returned to the kitchen muttering a terse "I'm sorry"

Michael smirked cockily as he took out the DiGiorno pizza from the oven.

Max left to the sanctuary of his room. His life was just getting better and better.


The next day at school, Max walked through the halls and heard the latest rumors of the Parker residence from the cheerleading squad.

"I heard she has some serious mental issues." Said a short curly haired redhead.

"I heard she has that disease where you can't go out in the sun or you'll die or something." Said another, even more moronic blonde chick with a fake perm.

"I heard she was deaf." Came from the head cheerleader, Tess, whom Max attempted to avoid by holding his Bio book to the side of his face.... but sadly, to no avail.

"MAX! Oh my God, Sean did the SWEETEST thing. He bought me a bracelette with our names engraved...."

She continued to talk as Max looked around, obviously annoyed. Why would he care about hearing what Sean had gotten her?

"Umm, yeah. That's really great, but ya know, can't miss Bio" He said and bolted away from the bouncy blonde bitch.

Max hadn't payed much attention to his Bio lecture, instead his thoughts drifted to Liz. He felt sorry for her, all the rumors going around about her. He knew there was something devastating that had to have happened in her past, and he only hoped he could help her. Maybe become her friend... he needed a friend.. possibly even just as much as she did.

The bell rang, and Max headed outside with his camera to eat his lunch and take pictures when he spotted Alex with two of the sweetest girls at his school, Maria and Isabel. Alex was clearly charming them, considering the amount of laughter coming from their area by the big tree giving them shade from the hot weather. Max smiled at the memory of his and Alex's friendship. Alex was always the whitty one.

Max hadn't realized he was staring until Maria waved at him from across the lawn. He awkwardly waved back, and Maria shook her head no and waved again, signaling that she wanted him to join them. He slowly made his way towards his former friend, and started conversation.

"Hey... guys" Isabel rolled her eyes,

"Do Maria and I look like males to you?" A hint of sarcasm in her voice.. Okay, maybe not JUST a hint. She was clearly pissed at him for leaving Alex.

"Hey man. What's up?" Alex asked. Max looked to him and shrugged. It was hard for him to casually talk to Alex. He wanted to apologize for leaving him. He wanted to tell him how alone he felt when he ditched Alex for the "in crowd". He wanted to tell him how much of an asshole he was.. but he didn't know exactly what to say. So he just chose a simple,


Alex looked at Max a minute before he burst into laughter.

Max blinked, "Glad to know I've made you laugh?" He said questioningly. Alex only laughed more, followed by the giggles from Isabel and Maria, until he finally managed to say

"Oh my god, Max Evans has just said he's sorry."

"That is something I have NEVER heard before." Maria chimed in.

"Seriously though, it's all good man. I mean, if ya hadn't ditched me, I wouldn't have found my two best galls" Alex joked, puttings his arms around each of the girls shoulders. "What can I say, I am THEE ladies man."

Isabel rolled her eyes, but she couldn't hide the smile on her lips. Max thought of Liz again, for the thousandth time that day, and thought of how he'd give anything to see that girl smile.

"So Alex, still playing guitar?" Max already knew the answer, but that still didn't mean he didn't want to hear it from Alex himself. Smiling, Max took a seat on the lawn in the shade and listened to Alex exclaiming all the songs he could play, and how he was writing his own music now.

"I see you've found a permanent liking." Alex smirked. Max looked confused.. how did Alex know about Liz? "You know, that camera. I never see you without it."

Max looked down, "Oh.. yeah.. I found something I have a knack for." Alex smiled.

"I knew you would someday, man"

Grandma Claudia knocked gently on Liz's door. Slowly, her granddaughter opened the door, giving Claudia permission to enter.

"How you feeling, honey?" Liz sat on her bed, gazing down at a framed picture. Claudia sat next to her and smiled.

"Your mother with her 4 favorite things. You, Kyle, your father, and her guitar." Back when things were simple. Liz turned her head to the side, looking at the picture she held of her family. All of which were gone. In one way or another, they were all gone. One had a chance to return, but would it ever happen? "Elizabeth. It's been 4 years, honey. Please, talk to me. Let me know you're alive.. that you feel things. Liz, let me in." This wasn't the first time Claudia pleaded with her granddaughter. She had tried therapy, but the overly priced psychiatrist said it was normal for a child to close themselves off when a tramatic event occured. That with medication and love and support, she would get through it. Too bad they couldn't continue to afford the appointments.

Just when Claudia was about to stand up, Elizabeth hesitantly leaned forward and hugged her. Slow and awkward at first, but gradually Claudia could feel Liz clinging to her like she was her lifeline. Claudia smiled as tears of joy filled her eyes. Maybe Liz wasn't talking, but at least she was making progress. At least she was aware... of everything.

posted on 15-Jun-2002 12:15:19 PM
Part 4

Max sat in his room loading a new roll of film into his camera when all of a sudden the house began to shake due to the loud noise coming from the room beside him. Max knocked on the wall and yelled

"Turn that down" Only to be recieved by the even louder music of Soundgarden blasting through the wall. Max got up and made his way to Michael's room.

"Look, this isn't your house. You may be living here for a while, but that doesn't mean you can do whatever the hell you want to do." Max explained.

Michael looked at him for a minute before turning off the CD player.

Ahh, momentary silence.

"Thank yo...", but that was drowned out by Alice In Chains. Max gave Micael the evil eye while Michael just ignored him and started putting posters of his favorite bands on the wall.

"What the hell is wrong with you? Is it your goal in life to piss everyone off?" Max asked.

"Naw, only you" Michael said casually.

Max got frustrated and bolted out of the house, leaving Michael in there alone. Max looked across the street to Liz's house, and debated on whether to go there or not... he took a step that way, but then decided it wasn't the best place to go when he was pissed off. So he took a walk to the park, with his camera in hand.

Max set his camera to focus on a little child feeding the ducks in the pond. His happiness and innocence was clearly evident on his face. Max snapped a shot as the kid's smile widened, watching the ducks attack the bread crumbs. Now this was calming. Maybe this was why Max loved taking photographs. Maybe it was the reason he was so good at it, being able to read people's thoughts, observe what they're thinking by their expressions. Max turned his head and caught sight of a middle aged man sitting on a park bench, looking sad and defeated. Max snapped a picture of him before leaving.


Grandma Claudia sat on the couch in her living room watching the tv. On the screen Claudia saw Liz sitting in her father's lap, closing her eyes and listening to her mother's calming melody on the guitar. None of the three were smiling, they all just sat there in silence as they listened to the soothing music. Claudia studied the determined expression on her daughter-in-law's face. She was so strong in hiding her pain. Nobody knew how much her son's death affected her. Nobody knew of the painful guilt that welled up inside of her from the knowledge that her only son died while sitting in the passenger side of their car that rainy day she drove him home from soccer practice. Nobody knew of the everlasting depression that would later mark her own death.

Claudia's thoughts drifted back to the day... the day the family started to break apart.

Claudia was watching Liz that gloomy day when the rain suddenly began to pour to no end.

"Gramma, gramma. You gonna show me how to make cookies?" Liz asked excitedly, her big doe eyes pleading with her grandmother to show her how.

Claudia smiled as she was about to answer her granddaughter, but the ringing of the phone meshed with the harshness of the raindrops plunking agianst the windowsill, and Claudia answered the phone.

The next thing she knew she was at the hospital holding her daughter-in-law's hand while she cried. The cuts and scrapes clearly evident on the right side of her once flawless face.

"Is he really gone?" Nancy asked through her sobbing.

Claudia took a deep breath

"The impact of the car on the passenger side was too.. too much. He died instantly, before he could feel any pain." Before he could feel any pain. Before he could feel any pain.. the words echoed through her head.

Claudia glanced out the hospital window, seeing Liz curled in her father's arms, clearly not understanding the severity of the situation.


Just then a male voice cleared his throat and Claudia turned to the sound.

"I'm sorry.. I knocked and nobody answered..I was worried that maybe something happened, and the door wasn't locked so I.. let myself in." Max asked as he looked to the tv, noticing a small girl with long brown hair flowing down her shoulders sitting in a man's arms, a man who looked vaguely familiar to Max.

Claudia stopped the VCR, and Max couldn't help but ask

"Was that Liz?" Claudia nodded in response.

"She looks a lot like her mother." He stated.

"Yes, she does." Claudia half-smiled. "What brings you here, Max?"

"Oh, I just wanted to.. see if.." Claudia raised an eyebrow

"You wanted to see Elizabeth?" Max blushed.

"Umm, something like that." He said under his breath. Max gestured towards Liz's room "May I?" Claudia nodded and went into the kitchen.

Max made his way to Liz's room and gently knocked on her door. In a few moments she opened it, and he went inside. Her gaze was set on his face, and he saw something more than a blank stare this time. He saw sadness in her eyes. He felt a pang at his heart at that look on her face, but at least she wasn't in her trance-like state.

"Hi Elizabeth". She made her way to her bed and sat down, he followed, and sat across from her. He studied her for a moment, and she studied him, her gaze finally focusing on the camera he held in his hand. Max smirked

"This is my pride and joy." Liz continued to look at his camera. "Ever taken any pictures before?" Her gaze flew back to his face. At least she seemed to be responding more. She shook her head no, but so minutely that Max wasn't sure she even did it. He just had to trust his instincts on this one. "Want me to show you?" Liz looked at the camera again, and then back to his face before nodding slightly.

Max stood up and extended a hand towards Liz to take.. She got up and looked at it blankly.. he gently grabbed her hand and guided her out of her room. Surprised she didn't pull away from him.

"Claudia?" Max asked.


"Can I take Liz outside, maybe to the park for a little while." Claudia's surprise was clearly marked on her face as she looked to Liz and Max, their fingers entwined. She walked up to Liz and asked..

"Lizzy? Do you want to go with Max to the park?" Liz nodded shyly, and Claudia got so giddy, she clasped her hands together.. "Okay.. then go" She said happily. Ever since Liz hugged her that day, she seemed to be opening up more, slowly but surely, and Claudia couldn't deny Liz the right to experience life again.


Max walked hand in hand with Liz to the park, glancing at her every now and then.

"I come here a lot. It's one of my favorite places to take pictures and calm down. It's where I go to get away from everything, all my problems." He explained to her, knowing that she heard him, even if she didn't respond.

Once they reached the park, they sat down on the grass away from all the people. Max had a feeling that Liz wouldn't want to be around too many people. He looked around, his gaze catching a little girl being pushed on the swingset by a young boy. He smiled and winked at Liz before taking a picture of the two cute little children. Liz studied how he worked the camera, focusing it and pushing a button. He handed it to her, wondering what even compelled him to let her use it. He never even let anybody touch his camera other than himself.

"You know.. this camera.. means, practically everything to me. It's my only comfort at times." Max mentioned, feeling this pull to tell her his thoughts. He wasn't very good at opening up to people, but with her it seemed natural. Probably the knowledge that she would just listen and not comment. Sometimes just having someone to listen was enough. Max looked to her face, and she seemed to be focusing on his eyes. He felt embarassed that he'd told her so much in that short moment and shrugged his shoulders, as if to erase what he'd just said away. "Okay, just... just pick anything in here that you find beautiful, Liz, and just take a picture of it." He explained to her, trying to give her the tactic that worked best for him. Finding beauty in things was the key to capturing the essence of a photograph.

Elizabeth continued to look at him, into his eyes, and for a split second he could have sworn he had seen the sadness in her eyes disappear and a sparkle shine through, but then she turned her head away, looking around the park. Max followed her gaze over to an elderly couple strolling through the garden patch hand in hand, and smiled in expectance of her taking a picture of them. Just as he turned his face back to Liz.... there was a flash....

And realization dawned on Max that he was the one in that picture.

Part 5

Throughout the rest of the day Max couldn't hide the smile that crept onto his face. Liz took a picture of him. He had told her to take a picture of something beautiful... and it was he whom she chose. He, of all people, knew the importance of that simple gesture. Liz seemed to hold a power over him, this captivating spell that entranced him with every little thing she did. Her face was so pure, so innocent, and yet so troubled and sad that he wanted to be the one to reach out and pull her out of the shell she kept herself in. He was determined to do that.

After Max walked Liz back to her house and made sure she was safe at home, he felt this need to share his feelings with someone. But who was there to share them with... His mom? No... Michael? Hell no. Max smiled. He knew someone he could trust.

Alex looked surprised as he opened the door

"Max? Hey, what are you doing here?" Max shrugged, still smiling,

"I wanted to visit an old friend." Alex smirked, and moved aside to let Max in.

"You seem very... happy." He stated. "I don't even remember the last time you seemed this happy, Max."

"Yeah, well... I found this girl." Alex laughed.

"You found this... girl. That says a lot, buddy." Max laughed and looked at Alex.

"Yeah.. she's... you know.. the ... well... you know Elizabeth Parker? Her and her grandmother have been living here for about two months now." Alex raised an eyebrow..


"No, none of those rumors are true, Alex. She's.. she's.. there's something about her. She's been through a lot, but she just.. her eyes, they're so.. and she's just.. so ..."

"Beautiful?" Alex asked.

"That doesn't even seem like enough to describe her." Alex chuckled.

"Looks like Max Evans is in love." Max shot Alex a glare.

"I wouldn't go that far. I just.. I want to help her. I want to be there for her. I want to.. protect her." Alex shook his head

"You've got it bad, Max." Max blushed, embarassed. He had never mentioned girls like this before. Usually girls were coming on to him so much that he didn't have any real emotional feelings towards any of them.. they were just.. there. Like Tess was just there.

"Hey, if it helps at all, I know how ya feel," Alex began. Max immediately looked up to him

"Isabel?" Alex snapped his head up.

"Oh my God, is it that obvious?" Max nodded his head, laughing.

"Yah, it's pretty pathetic, actually.... but, she likes you too. So I guess you're both pathetically obviously head over heals in lo-oove with eachother." Alex smiled.

"You think?"

"I know. Believe me, Alex, I've had enough girls hanging all over me to know how they act when they like you. Isabel's always smiling and happy around you. In fact, I distinctly remember her being Miss Ice Queen until you came around and softened her up." Alex had this goofy, dreamy look on his face.

Max was happy that he and Alex were talking like they used to, although he still felt he needed to formally apologize for the way he treated Alex.

"Hey... I'm really sorry for everything. You were my best friend, and I just... left you for.."

"Don't worry about it, Max" Alex shrugged his apology off. "I know how you feel."

"So, we friends again?" Max asked.

"Of course..." Max turned around to leave, but as he opened the door Alex continued...

"Umm.. you may have to face.. the Wrath of the Ice Queen for a while though. Heh..heh. She was the one who had to hear me bitch about your arrogance for a while."

Max winced.

"Well, I deserve some sort of punishment." He said before leaving.

What a great way to end the day. He was making progess with Liz, and he was gaining Alex's friendship back. There was absolutely nothing that could ruin his day.

He walked into his house and found Michael making out with a blonde chick on his couch..

"God Michael, get a room!" He yelled.

The two broke apart instantly and Max's eyes opened wide like saucers..

Okay, so maybe that could ruin his day.


Maria licked her lips and pulled her bunched up skirt down, smoothing it out.

"Ummm... Max.. what are you.. doing here?"

"This is MY house. MY house. Not Michael's.. MINE!" Max yelled, aggravated."Besides, what are YOU doing here?"

"It shouldn't be too hard to figure out there..." Michael began. Max shot Michael a stern look.

"Was I asking you?"

"No, but any idiot would kno..."

"Just shut up already!" Max said, furious.

"Ummm, I'll just be... going now." Maria said, creeping towards the door. She quickly opened it and slammed it shut in a hurry to get out of the house.

Michael sat back on the couch, putting his feet up on the coffee table.

"Thanks man" He said sarcastically.

"Asshole." Max muttered, turning to make his way to his room, when he thought about how it was because of Maria's friendly invitation to sit with them at lunch, that he and Alex were friends again, and stopped, his back still turned to Michael. "Just.. don't be using her." Max said before continuing on his way to his room.

Michael heard the door slam shut before saying under his breath
"I'm not."


Despite last night's bad visual of Michael and Maria making-out, Max managed to get some sleep. And now here he was, in his school's dark room developing the two last rolls of film he'd taken. After setting up the equipment, and performing a test run on the enlarger time, Max set the clock, and watched the magic of art developing right before his eyes.

His amber eyes gazed with intensity as the image of Liz's blank stare hiding behind her dark brown, silky smooth hair came into view. Max breathed in, as the power of that blank stare captivated his senses and made him want to see her after school and work his way on opening her up.

He continued watching all his other pictures come into focus, smiling at how wonderful the picture of the child feeding the ducks turned out. The little boy's eyes were opened wide, as the duck charged at the breadcrumbs in the water, sending ripples of waves to splash around. The thing he loved most about this picture was the child's look of pure innocence.

Then Max saw himself. He smiled in rememberance of Liz taking his picture. He looked completely natural.. well, other than the contentness in his smile and the adoration shining in his eyes. Max knew that both of which were caused by Liz herself. Max had taken so many pictures of other people that he didn't have many of himself. This picture was priceless. Priceless in the fact that he rarely smiled. Priceless in the fact that he never had adoration in his eyes. Pricless in the fact that it was taken by Elizabeth Parker. The woman who had been making him smile more lately, the woman who he adored, the woman who captured his senses and made him feel.

Max's smile soon deteriorated, and he crinkled his brow curiously as the next photo came into view. His mouth dropped open and he was struck speechless as the man sitting on the park bench's facial features came into view. Max closed his eyes and opened them again to make sure he wasn't imaging everything.. but the man in the picture was the same man holding Liz in his arms in the video he saw Claudia watching. Granted, the man had more wrinkles and lines now, probably due to the stress of whatever happened. But the fact of the matter was that this was Liz's father he saw. Max had never seen the man at the Parker househould and wondered if he was on some restraining order or something.

The knowledge continued to haunt Max during the rest of school, he didn't want Liz to be in any trouble. He didn't want her to hurt, she'd already been hurt so badly in the past.. and he didn't even know what the reason was exactly. Maybe he was making a big deal out of nothing... but then as his thoughts turned optimistic, an image of Liz with her blank stare came into his mind, and he knew the knowledge of Liz Parker's father being in the same area, at the very same park he took her to, was too great to keep from her.

The only problem now was how to tell Liz. How could he tell Liz he had unknowingly seen her father in the park and had taken a picture of him. Wouldn't she be freaked out that he even knew it was her father in the picture? The scary thing was, if he hadn't seen that video, he wouldn't have known. He would have seen that picture and just noted it as an expression of sadness, but now he knew that there was a story behind that picture.

There was a story behind every picture he had taken, and now every time he would look at an emotional picture, he would recognize it was only a picture of a particular moment in a person's life. An image that would be captured forever. Memories of pain, heartache, love, death... everything... was captured in a picture. Only the sight of a person, not the voice, not the whole story. But an image of the story, an image of the truth. Talk never got to the matter of truth, words could be manipulated, but expressions could not be.

Liz Parker didn't talk, but she clearly observed. She understood that truth didn't make a noise. It was all expressions. Expressions that she never showed. Liz Parker didn't want anyone to know the truth. So she sat in her own little world, withdrawing herself from everyone so she wouldn't have to face the truth. But now it was time for Max to let her know the truth the only way he knew how. By showing her the picture and asking no questions.

Part 6

His heart was pounding as he drove home from school, and the nervousness and worry creeping through his thoughts was what made him pull into his driveway instead of Liz Parker's. He knew he needed to calm down and think clearly before showing her the picture. He needed to be logical about this. He got out of his car and looked across the street to her house. He tried to remain calm, but to no avail, he knew the longer he'd hold out on letting her know, the more it would worry him.

Slowly, he grabbed his camera and the newly developed film, and made his way across the street to her house. He stood motionless, staring at the door. All he had to do was knock and he'd be inside... and where would he go from there? Just show her the picture, his thoughts told him. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and opened them, knocking before he had the urge to turn around and run back home.

It seemed like forever before Claudia came to the door, opening it and smiling sweetly at him.

"Max. Come in." She said, stepping to the side of the door. She looked up to him, clasped his hands in hers and said "Thank you."

Max understood what she was thanking him for. Liz. Max was overwhelmed with the sincerity of her words, and his face paled at the thought of provoking anything to go downhill with Liz from there. He had opened her up, very slowly, and he didn't want to ruin anything.

Claudia noticed the look on Max's face and dropped her hands from his.

"Max.. sit down."

Max made his way over to the couch and listened to the grandfather clock chiming in sync with the beating of his heart. He was worried. So worried.

"What's wrong?" Claudia gently asked, searching his face.

Max took out the photos from his pocket and handed them to Claudia. She silently grabbed them, looking through the pictures. Max watched the expressions on her face. They ranged from a sweet smile and jovial eyes to a mild frown and a look of sadness... the same look of sadness Max had noticed in Liz's father's eyes.

"Poor Jeff." Claudia sighed, as her thumb smoothed over his face.

Max looked confused. Claudia didn't act surprised, or worried. Just... sad. She looked up to Max's face that was so full of questions.

"Why doesn't he.. does Liz know he's.." Max's head was so full of questions that each one ran into the next, until finally they faded into the back of his head.

Claudia sighed.

"Max. I think it's time you know... what happened."

Max glanced up to Liz's room, her door shut as always, and looked back into Claudia's welcoming eyes.

"She was 8 years old. A regular, innocent child. Very naive. Very unaware of the cruelty life throws at us... when she was forced to grow up quickly. She had a twin brother, Kyle. They were so close. They could never be separated, and they even had their own secret language they used to speak." Claudia smiled at the memory, even though her sentences were choppy and her voice ranged from it's regular tone to a higher pitch. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears, but her determination willed her to continue the story. "It was rainy the day that Nancy went to pick up Kyle, and... there was a green light.. so she proceeded to drive.. when, she was struck on the passenger side by a truck, instantly killing... him. Her son. Liz's brother."

Max's eyes filled with the slightest of tears. He felt compassion towards this gentle old woman as she told him the painful story, and all he could do was listen.

"Then it was just them.. Jeff, Nancy, and Liz. Liz never really got over Kyle's death.. she started withdrawing herself.. from people. It wasn't anything extreme at the time.. Her mother and father tried so hard to comfort her, and it was working. Liz began opening up and Jeff was happy.. so happy. Whenever Nancy played the guitar, it brought Liz peace. We all took so much time worrying about Liz and her well being, that we never noticed Nancy." Claudia closed her eyes and took a long, drawn out breath before continuing. "Nancy's inner turmoil over losing Kyle, and the way she thought she could have stopped it plagued her. She hid it well. Busying herself with trying to help Liz, being the pillar of strength that held the family together. She began taking anti-depressants. I didn't know about it, Jeff didn't know about it. Only she did. Then.. the 5th year.. exact date of Kyle's death.. she.. couldn't take the pain and killed herself by overdosing on those same anti-depressant pills that were supposed to help her, leaving a suicide note behind."

Max closed his eyes, feeling the bitterness of pain take over him. How could Nancy be so selfish as to leave her daughter alone. Didn't she know Liz needed her? It must have been horrible on Liz. And Jeff. Claudia cleared her throat, before finishing,

"After Nancy's death, Liz completely withdrew from the world. She barely ate, barely slept, never talked, and... lived in a shell. Jeff couldn't take all the emotional damage, and he thought it would be best if I take care of Liz. I meet with him occasionally now, to tell him of her well-being. He needs time on his own, to deal with all the emotional trauma he's had. He lost a wife through suicide, and he lost two children.. one through death.. and the other, through complete silence. He worries about her so much, but he can't stand the pain of seeing that blank stare in her eyes."

"I don't see how he could just walk out on her.." Max said his thoughts before he had time to think.

"It didn't even phase her, Max. It was like she didn't notice what was happening."

Max tilted his head down, running his fingers through his hair, as he now empathized with Jeff Parker. No wonder he looked so sad and defeated in that picture. He was lost. When Max looked up, Claudia finally broke out in painful sobs. Max hugged her gently.

"Claudia Parker, you're the strongest person I know."

Claudia pulled back and wiped away the tears in her eyes.

"Thank you, Max."

"So.. Liz doesn't know that.. her father is.." Claudia shook her head no
"It's best that she doesn't. Not yet."

Max nodded in understanding. Now he felt stupid and selfish for ever considering showing Liz that picture of Jeff. It could have hurt her even more, and he would hate himself for being the cause of it.

"Here", he said, handing Claudia the picture of Jeff Parker. "Show her when you're ready. When she's.. ready." Max looked to Liz's door again, and he felt emotionally drained. He couldn't imagine what Liz felt, what she was thinking. Unimaginable pain, hurt, suffering? All the people she loved were gone, with the exception of her grandmother.

It was a horrible thought, to know that a perfectly normal family could be forced into a never ending cycle of problems.

"Max, I'm giving you a chance here. You can walk away now, before she's too attached to you. You know about what happened, and she's been hurt too much in the past. So if you won't be able to deal with it, then leave now. I can't afford to see her hurt again."

"Neither can I." Max said breathlessly, "And as for walking away from her, I could never do that."

He let his feet guide him to Liz's bedroom where he softly rapped on her door. She opened it, and let him inside. Instead of retreating back to her bed, she continued to stand in front of him. Max looked into that blank stare she once again held and he showed her, through the intensity of depth within his amber eyes, that he knew the story, and that he cared for her. He gently took her hands in his, intertwining their fingers together and said softly,

"I know, Liz."

Her solid stance shattered, as her feet crumpled beneath her and she lost her balance. Max pulled her to him, wanting to keep that unbearable pain away, wanting her to know he was there for her. That he would be there for her every step of the way, unlike her mother, unlike her father. But like her grandmother. He looked into her once blank-stare, and saw emotion flickering in her brown eyes. They widened in painful rememberance, and for the first time Max Evans saw tears forming in Elizabeth Parker's eyes. On impulse he pulled her towards him, wrapping her in his strong embrace, letting her head rest on his rapidly beating chest. He kissed her temple, and ran his fingers through her hair, gently stroking it in a comforting manner.

"It's okay, Liz. It's okay to feel, show me what you're feeling." He brokenly whispered into her ear, and he finally witnessed her resolve breaking, when he felt her arms wrap around him, clinging onto him for dear life, followed by the soft cries in her voice. The sound was painful and beautiful all at the same time. The moment was bittersweet. And it would be forever etched into his memory as he heard a click, and saw Claudia, with tears in her own eyes, holding his camera.


Part 7

That day had definately proven to be intense for Max. He was overwhelmed with the knowledge of Liz's past and all the emotions it evoked within him. For the first time in his life, he cared for someone else more than himself. All his problems with his mother always ignoring him and his father never being home seemed so trivial when compared to those of Liz's.

He had expected something bad to have happened in her past, but he hadn't expected such a horrendous loss for her. His heart went out to her, and he wondered about her thoughts. He wanted to know her, what she was thinking, and be there for her to open up to. He was now determined to help Liz no matter how much effort it would take from him. She had cried in his arms, and it felt good to know that he was beginning to open her up. He was starting to break that barrier she held over herself, and the thought alone filled him with a happiness. Not a regular, giddy happiness, but more of a sullen, haunting happiness. He wasn't aware of what he was getting into exactly, the first girl he cared for had serious problems, but he didn't care. All he wanted was to be there for her.

Max and Michael hadn't spoken much. Not that they really ever had in the first place, but they hadn't even so much as argued ever since Max caught Michael making-out with Maria. And now, as the two guys proceeded to get ready for school, Max decided to interrogate Michael.

"You like Maria?" He asked out of nowhere, breaking the silence.

"What's it to you?" Michael shot back.

"God! She's a friend, and I don't want to see her get hurt... and look at you" Max said, pointing to Michael's grungy clothes and long hair, "you're the type of guy who'd just use her, and then drop her."

Michael clenched his jaw and his eyes immediately flashed with anger. If Max had been intimidated by Michael the first time he saw him, then he was ultimately fearing for his life with the look Michael was now giving him.

"Maxwell, you need to get your shit straight before stereotyping me." Michael spoke surprisingly calm, despite the cold gaze he continued to hold on Max.

"Why did my mother have to take you in?" Max asked, more to himself than to Michael.

"Your mother is a great lady."

Max felt anger hearing someone else tell him how great of a mother he had.

"To you maybe, but you're not me. You don't know my situation at all." Michael raised an eyebrow...

"Just like you don't know mine."

Max grew frustrated as he realized Michael was right. He lowered his voice,

"She's never there for me. Never has been."

"Okay, oh selfish-one. And when have you been there for her? She's tried to reach out to you and you push her away. Are you even aware of how much your mother cares about you?"

Max's head shot up,

"What do you mean?" He asked. Michael shrugged.

"At least you have a mother." Max thought of Liz at those words, and immediately felt selfish. He gulped before changing the subject.

"How'd you end up at the Shelter?"

Michael locked eyes with Max as he slowly and silently rolled up the sleave of his Tool shirt to reveal the hideous scar of a cigarette burn engraved on his upper arm. Max looked down,

"Your father?" He asked.

"We'd better get to school." Michael changed the subject, and the tone of his voice told Max that it was a painful memory that was best left not to discuss.

Max nodded in reply as he led the way out the door of their house in complete silence.


Max found school to be relatively boring. It was the same old monotonous routine day after day. His only versatile moment was at lunch, when he'd sat with Alex, Isabel and Maria. Maria seemed to look everywhere but at him, obviously embarassed that he'd caught her with Michael. He'd noticed that every once in a while she'd be looking beyond him at something. Or someone. Probably Michael, Max guessed as he saw a sly smile grace her lips.

"So Max, what has inspired you to so graciously continue sitting with us poor, lost souls. And not with your..." Isabel turned her head and looked in disgust at Tess and Sean sitting at a lunch table making a show for the whole lunch period to see. "Oh.. God.. PDA. How disgusting. They could at least show some dignity."

"Isn't there some rule against Personal Displays of Affection?" Maria asked.

"Heh.. obviously unnoticed here." Alex stated. He slid his arm around Isabel, "What do ya say we give them our own little show of affection." He joked, winking at her. Isabel laughed,

"Alex, this is why we all love you so much!" She said, pinching his cheeks. "You're just so cute!"

"Hey, this body isn't cute." He said, releasing his arm from around Isabel and flexing it. "It's manly." He smirked. Isabel giggled, and Maria shot up..

"I just remembered.. I have this.. project thing. I need to finish it. Right now." She said hurriedly before giving Max a silent smirk and heading off in the direction to where Michael sat alone with a sketchbook in hand. So Michael's an artist, huh? Max thought. You learn something new every day.

"You're awfully quiet today." Alex's voice interjected Max's thoughts. When Max didn't answer right away, Isabel took it upon herself to acknowledge him.

"Hey moron. Alex is talking to you."

He snapped his head back at them, and he saw Alex silently mouthing "The Wrath of Isabel" to him. He burst into laughter.

"What's so amusing?" Isabel asked. Max smirked

"Nothing really, something only a moron would find funny."


Claudia sat next to Liz on their living room couch, gently brushing her long dark brown strands of hair like she did when Liz was only a child.

"Elizabeth?" Claudia asked. Liz turned her face towards Claudia. "What do you think of Max?"

Liz's face turned a gentle pink, and she looked down. Claudia smiled at her grand-daughter's response. It was nice seeing Liz actually showing facial expressions and emotions. It was something that Claudia had wanted for so long. It was something that she took pride in. It was a moment that she relished and she didn't think she'd be able to tell Max just how much he had done for her grand-daughter as well as for herself.

Just then a knocking sounded on the door, and Claudia went to answer it, knowing who it would be. Max came in and found Liz on the couch. He smiled at her and reached his hand out for her to take.

"Liz, I have a surprise for you." Liz's eyebrow wrinkled in curiosity as she slowly laid her hand in his. Max guided Liz over to where Claudia was, and she couldn't deny the pleading look in his eyes.

"Go ahead." Claudia smiled, and she watched the two leave.

"I hope you like it. I just, I remembered when you first heard it, you seemed drawn to it, and then I learned about how your.. well, I just. I wanted to..." Max looked away, nervous. He wasn't exactly sure how Liz would take the surprise. He was hoping she'd like it. He'd give anything if she'd like it. As if Liz sensed his nervousness, she stopped walking, removed her hand from his and gently placed it on his shoulder. The simple gesture brought Max comfort, and he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and embrace her the way he had done the night before.. but he didn't want to scare her. That was a completely different time and place, and now... he didn't know how she would react to it. "The.. the surprise is at the park." Liz nodded and removed her hand from his shoulder, only to bring it back down and twine her fingers with his. Max looked Liz in her beautiful, brown eyes and smiled in content. She was definitely making progress. She was beginning to feel. Now, all he wanted was to see her smile and hear her voice.. for real this time.

As they walked closer and closer to the park, the faint sound of a guitar could be heard, and Max took a deep breath before glancing towards Liz. Her pace seemed to quicken, and she was now leading him towards the park. Max smiled, and followed before gesturing to a nice, shady area below an oak tree for them to sit at. The sound of the guitar was echoed with the chirping of the birds, and Liz closed her eyes, unconsciously leaning her head back and letting it rest on Max's broad chest. Max felt his heart pound through his chest, and sighed in both relief and contentness. Claudia was right, Liz seemed to find peace when she heard a guitar. He couldn't resist the urge to run his hands through her silky brown hair, and gently watched as the strands slipped through his fingers. When the guitar ceased it's sound, Liz opened her eyes. She was suddenly aware that she had rested her head on Max's chest, and was about to pull away in embarassment, but she was reassured of her position when she felt his fingers playing with her hair.

Max looked down at her and his intense amber eyes bored into the brown depths of hers. She sat up and schooched closer to him. Max kissed her cheek, unable to control himself of that sudden impulse. She was just so innocent and vulnerable. Sitting there flushed with embarassment. Max reached out and wrapped his arms around her, gently pulling her towards him. He kissed her hair and whispered in her ear

"This is the first time I'm feeling too, Liz."

She slightly turned her head, and gave him the smallest glimpse of a smile. She ran her hand down his arm before grabbing his hand, bringing it towars her mouth, and shyly brushing her lips in the softest caress on his palm. Max felt her smile go through his body, sending a tremor of happines into his heart and when she gently kissed him, he involuntarily shivered at the sensation. This was a moment that he wished he'd had on camera. But as he watched Liz look into his eyes with that vulnerable, questioning look of wonder, he realized that this was enough. Her smile was enough for him. Her smile was beyond enough for him.

Alex watched Max and Liz, amazed at their interaction. Max was being really gentle with her and she looked like she felt safe with him. The way they looked at eachother with such intensity was beyond anything Alex had witnessed between two other people before. Alex once again continued to strum his guitar, playing the melody of "Glycerine" by Bush.

'Yep', Alex thought to himself as he glanced towards Max and Liz, watching Liz lay her head on Max's shoulder and close her eyes. Max looked towards her in gentle adoration. 'Max is in love.'

posted on 15-Jun-2002 12:16:55 PM

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Jun-2002 6:20:27 PM ]
posted on 15-Jun-2002 6:16:31 PM
Part 8

Max tucked Liz's hair behind her right ear before asking

"Liz?" She looked up at him. "Do you.. want to meet the talented guitarist? He's.. my best.. well, he's a really good friend of mine." Liz looked down, her gaze seemingly on the raw dirt of the earth. She dropped her hand to the ground and started plucking at the strands of grass. "Elizabeth?" Max asked once again.

She looked up at him, a look of apology. Max hugged her,

"It's okay, Liz. We'll wait until you're ready." He said, reassuring her. She smiled shyly in response, and Max thought this was something he could grow accustomed to. Her lovely smile.. despite the shyness in it, held so much purity and Max wondered how he went so long without seeing her smile. Now that he had witnessed it, he'd never want to go a day without seeing that smile on her face.

Alex watched the two, noticing them look into eachother's eyes so lovingly. He decided to play a new song he was working on. It had a stronger sound, more powerful to the ear.

The rustling of leaves could be faintly heard behind the sound of the guitar reverberating throughout the park. Max turned his gaze away from Liz, wondering if it was possible it could be Jeff Parker. He hadn't thought of what would happen if Liz found her father at the park. The sudden thought worried him, and he looked down, taking a breath as his face paled.

Liz lifted her hand under his chin and slowly guided his face up to look at her. Once he was eye level with her, she gently cupped his cheek and crinkled her forehead in question, as if to ask what was wrong without speaking the words. 'How can a woman hold so much emotion with one look', Max thought. What was it about Liz that seemed to open him up so much? It was like she was controlling his emotions with each gaze or gesture she did. She had so much control over him right now, that he wondered what would come over him if he heard her voice.

As Max and Liz sat in their own little dream world, the rustling grew louder and finally a high pitched shriek was heard

"Max!" He turned his head, wincing at the voice he knew so well. He looked to Liz, seeing this sort of transformation in her before his eyes. She was retreating back into her shell again. Her face that held such purity, and eyes that held him captive, suddenly turned cold and unresponsive. That blank stare he first witnessed in her eyes was back, and Max felt this unbearable pain course through his body.

My baby's got a heart of stone
Can't you people just leave her alone
She never did nothing to hurt you
So just leave her alone

He glared at Tess. Just then Sean came up, wrapping his arms around Tess possessively.

"Hey Matt." Max hadn't felt like correcting Sean. All he was worried about now was Liz. He stood up, hoping she would follow his lead so that they could leave. He knew that if Tess and Sean witnessed the way Liz was.. it'd be all over school. And he didn't want that. It was Liz's own private life, and it was cruel that gossip could be spread so quickly and harshly. Granted she didn't go to their school, but he still didn't want to hear snickering comments about her throughout the halls of school.

The motion of her tiny hands
And the quiver of her bones below
All the signs of a girl alone
Tell ya everything you need to know

When Liz didn't follow his lead, he glanced around nervously, and bent down before her, attempting to take her hands in his, but was surprised when she pulled away.

"Liz?" He looked at her in confusion. He felt a harsh tremor of pain tear through his body, even worse than the pain he felt from once again seeing her blank stare. He had to gulp away the lump that was forming in his throat.

"Oh my God!" Tess shouted. "It's Elizabeth Parker."
Sean waved a hand in front of Liz's face, and when she continued to stare blankly in front of her, he laughed. A harsh, mocking laugh.

I can't explain it
I feel it often, every time I see her face
But the way you treat her
It fills me with rage
And I wanna tear apart the plays

"She's like a statue. I bet it's all just a front." He said. "Hey Liz," He bent down in front of her, looking at her face. When she held the same blank stare, he commented. "Wow, you're good at ignoring people. How about you stop the show and get up now." Liz wasn't phased at all. She was enclosed in her shell, back in her own little world.. the world where nobody could know what was going on in her mind.

Max harshly pushed Sean out of the way.

You try to tell her what to do
And all she does is stare at you
Her stare is louder than your voice
Because truth doesn't make a noise
No, truth doesn't make a noise
No, truth doesn't make a noise

"Leave her alone!" He demanded. Sean laughed in response. Max tried to wrap Liz in his arms, to shield her body away from the scrutiny of these people he once called his friends. Only Liz didn't let him. Her only movement had been backing even further away from him. Max looked back to Sean and pleaded with him. "Please. Just go."

Tess whispered something into Sean's ear, and he smirked.

"You were once like me, Max. You had it all, but who would have known that when Tess dumped you, you'd have lowered your standards.." He glanced at the zombie-like girl sitting at the base of the oak tree. "That much."

I can't explain it
I feel it often, every time I see her face
But the way you treat her
It fills me with rage and I wanna tear apart the plays

Max felt rage well up inside of him, and in a blind haze he found himself hauling Sean to the ground. Red fire was burning in his body, telling him to obliterate this evil, shallow, self-centered son of a bitch. He threw punches, one after another. He hadn't noticed the blood spilling from his opponent's lip, or spewing from his nose. All Max saw was a blur of red, and the more pain he felt, the more rage he felt welling up inside of him at the way Sean treated Liz, the faster, and harsher his punches became. He was like an animal, like it was a primal need to destroy this... thing in front of him.

"Max!" Voices yelled for him to stop. He heard the high-pitched shriek of Tess, and finally felt himself being pulled away..

"No!" He shouted, as the waves of rage still overpowered him.

"Max. Please. I hate him as much as you do, but you gotta stop."

"Alex?" Max questioned, as the red haze slowly dissipated. Max looked at Sean and almost puked. Sean's once perfect face had been dramatically altered. His nose was broken, and blood dripped down from every gash Max had caused. Bruises adorned his cheeks and flecked underneath his sunken eyes. Max turned his head away, breathing heavily.

Then he saw her. Liz was now huddled up into a ball. Her feet pulled against her chest. Her eyes were no longer blank, but looking at Max in.. was that fear he saw?

"Liz.." He spoke breathlessly. "I.." And as it began to rain, slowly drizzling at first, he dropped to his knees in front of her. "Liz, I didn't mean to.. I.. he was disrespecting you. I couldn't.." The rain began to grow heavier now, as the drops pelted against the ground, and the once blue sky transformed into an ugly, dark blue, filled with grey clouds.

"Max?" Alex asked, as he saw even more fear growing in Liz's face. It was then that Max realized she wasn't afraid of him, but she was afraid of the rain.. and as his thoughts once again became coherent, he realized why. Her brother.. he died when it was raining.

Liz was still curled in the ball, shivering now. Max carefully curled his arms around her, bringing his forehead in contact with hers and whispered in her ear "Want me to me take you home now?" He felt her slight nod against his forehead, before he scooped her up in his arms and carried her petite frame away. She tightened her arms around his neck in fear, and hid her head in the crook of his neck as if he was her shield away from the pain. Max quickened his pace and finally reached her house. He returned her home to Claudia. Once he released her from his arms, she ran into her bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her. Max cursed to himself under his breath. What was he going to do now?
Part 9

The next day Max forced himself to go to school. If he hadn't gone, he'd just be letting Sean and Tess win and he wouldn't stand for that. He tried not to think about Liz Parker, every time he did, it'd hurt. It hurt him so much the way she went back into her shell. Maybe it was inevitable that it would happen, but he couldn't help blaming himself for being part of the reason. He sighed as he walked over to Alex and Isabel.

"Hey" Alex greeted him. "How is Liz?"

Max scratched his forhead, "I really don't know."

Isabel wasn't even aware that Max had been seeing Elizabeth Parker, all this was news to her. She didn't really think Maxwell Evans would be capable of seeing someone like Liz. He was just too damn arrogant and selfish. All the while Alex and Max talked, she kept glaring at Max.

"I just hope things don't get too out of hand." Max said.

Just then, Maria walked over to them, seemingly pissed off.

"I hate men." She hmphed. "I can't believe he won't come over here with me to meet my friends. It's like he doesn't want our relationship to be known."

Max looked over to Michael, who was at his locker, throwing glances at Maria, looking just as pissed as she was.

"Who?" Alex and Isabel asked in unison.

Maria shot a glare Michael's way, and when all their eyes turned on him, he slammed his locker shut and walked away.

"Since when have you been seeing that guy?" Isabel asked.

"Ugh. It's kind of a long story. Detention.. he was drawing something and wouldn't tell me what it was. You know me and my curiousity.. I asked him very nicely if I could see the stupid drawing, and he wouldn't let me."

"Well, maybe it was personal to him." Alex interjected. Maria shot him a glare..

"Anyway, after I yelled at him.. he had this look in his eyes." Maria started to smirk.. "And then.. it just happened."

"Okay. So you kiss once and that means you two are together?" Isabel asked.

"That wasn't the only time we..Ugh.. I need my Cedar Oil" Maria said, reaching into her purse.

The bell rang, signifying class, and Max reluctantly made his way to his English room where he noticed people staring at him. He listened quietly to the whispers throughout the room.

"Yeah, Sean was so drunk he couldn't fight back. I can't believe Max would just attack him like that, all because he was jealous."

Well, at least there are no rumors about Liz, Max thought.

"That Liz Parker girl is seriously fucked up. She's like, a mute or something."

Max felt anger boil within him, and he turned around to the two people talking. They must have thought he was stupid to have not have heard them.

"Elizabeth Parker is a woman. She has more emotion and depth within her than the two of you put together. Don't ever speak that way about her again." He spoke with authority.

The two glanced at eachother, and then shut up.

Max was relieved when lunch finally came. He sat in his usual spot with Alex and Isabel.

"Where's Maria?" He asked.

"Uh, I think she and Michael made up." Isabel answered.

"Figures." Max said.

"Hey Max.. have you heard?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, I've heard all the rumors. I was expecting this to happen."

"Looks like your popularity just crashed down to zero, Max". Isabel stated.

"I don't care, Isabel." He said, not wanting to put up with her at the moment. He had too many things on his mind. He had to find out how to get to Liz again. Isabel noted the defeated look in him and decided to hold off on being a bitch... temporarily.

Sean and Tess came strutting outside and a flock of people made their way over to the two. Who would have known that Sean being beaten to a bloody pulp would increase his popularity. He now held the "Innocent Victim" title. While Tess just held the.. "Innocent Victim's Girlfriend" title. Fights weren't a normal occurance in school, so when one happened, it was the talk for about a week.

"Don't worry Max. It'll die down eventually." Alex said, reassuringly.

"I just don't like Liz being involved in this. I hate them for saying what they said to her. I hate them for provoking me to start something that would lead to rumors.. but to tell you the truth. If fighting with Sean was able to create a diversion from rumors of Liz, then I wouldn't take it back for anything in the world."

"What if Liz is afraid of you now, Max?" Isabel asked.

"She's not." Max said. "I know she's not. But she's retreated herself back into her shell and I'm afraid it'll take a long time for her to come back out."

"Maybe she should get professional help." Isabel suggested.

"They tried it before. They didn't have enough money, and frankly.. I don't think it would work. I can't see Liz opening up to someone she doesn't even know."

Isabel looked at Max.

"You're not such an asshole after all." She smiled.

Max was at home in his room, contemplating what to say to Liz. He was really beginning to get somewhere with her. Damn Sean and Tess for ruining his happiness. For once in his life he deserved to be happy. Why couldn't he have that? If Liz was happy, he was happy, and now Liz was just a shell of the woman she once was. Just then a knock sounded on Max's door.

"Come in."

Diane peaked her head through the door

"Hi Max." She smiled before walking in and sitting down on his bed. "Maxwell, is there anything you want to talk about?" Max looked surprised that his mom was actually asking him something about his life. It had been too long since she'd done so, and he didn't want to tell her about Liz, Sean, Tess, Alex and Maria. So he shrugged.

"No, not really."

His mother looked at him in exasperation, and then ran her hand through her hair.

"Max. You're never letting me in. You're always pushing me away."

"What?" Max asked, his jaw dropping. He was pushing her away?

"Whenever I try.. I try to talk to you, you never tell me anything."

"You never ask me anything, mom. This is the first time you've actually shown a semblance of concern for me."

"Maxwell. I try to talk to you, but you have this look on your face. This 'don't bother me' look. You know how much it hurts me that it's easier for me to talk to the kids at the Shelter than it is to talk to you?"

Those words cut deep into Max's heart, and he winced. He was aware that he wasn't open to people. Only recently had he been opening up to Alex and Liz. In fact, it was Liz that was beginning to open him up. It was she that was making him actually feel again. How could someone who didn't talk open him up? He realized that in him trying so hard to get her out of her shell, it seemed like she was bringing him out of his own in this weird way. A way he hadn't recognized until now. Maybe he was more like Liz than he realized.

"Her name is Elizabeth Parker.." Max started.. and then his mother sat down and he told her about Liz, Sean, Tess, Alex, Maria, Isabel.. and even Michael.

"Speaking of Michael," His mom began. "You may want to thank him."

"For what?"

"He encouraged me to try to talk to you again. Only to be more forceful this time." She laughed. "See, he's not so bad after all."

"I know he's not."

Grandma Claudia looked down at Liz sleeping in her bed. Not peacefully, but sleeping nonetheless. Liz never slept peacefully anymore. Claudia was so worried when it had started raining the day before, and was relieved when Max returned her home. But when Liz ran off to her room, Claudia knew something was wrong with the look of pain Max had on his face, and how he left without saying anything. She sighed, worriedly running her hand through her gray hair, and leaned down to kiss Liz on the cheek before leaving her room.

After Max told his mother about everything in his life, his mom gave him a hug.

"We're finally talking Max."

"Yeah." He said. "I'm worried about Liz."

"I know, Max. Maybe you should just go and try to talk to her."

"I'm scared"

"Of what?"

"I'm scared of her not getting any better."

"Maxwell, don't think like that. The most important thing for you to do is to be there for her. By going over there, it'll show that you still care for her. Just because something happened, doesn't mean you should hide yourself. Now go and talk to her."

Max got up,

"Thanks, mom" He kissed her on the cheek before leaving.

Once Max left the house, his mother worked up the nerve to call his father.

After Claudia let Max in, he made his way to Liz's room and softly rapped on the door. She didn't answer. Max felt a tremor of hurt shoot through his heart, but then Claudia approached him and opened the door.

"She's sleeping. Just try not to wake her." She whispered.

Max nodded before quietly entering Liz's room. He saw her sleeping form on her bed. Her legs were scrunched up and she lay in the fetal position. Her brow was furrowed as if she wasn't quite at peace. He wondered if the previous days events had anything to do with that. He slowly walked to her bed and couldn't help but tuck that stray bit of hair behind her ear. She was so beautiful. With her eyes gently closed, and her arms resting on the pillow beside her. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her temple, before silently whispering

"I love you, Liz."

Careful not to wake her, he made his way to the door and softly closed it behind him.

Only when she heard the door close did Elizabeth open her eyes. She blinked back tears, and whispered a muffled, ever so faint sounding,

"I love you too" to the closed door.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Jun-2002 6:21:42 PM ]
posted on 15-Jun-2002 6:17:12 PM
Part 10

Max walked home in silent strides. He wished that Liz was up so he could talk to her. And for a second he had the urge to turn around and go back there, but then his thoughts changed. Maybe she was purposely avoiding him. Maybe she was mad at him, or closing herself off from him again. He closed his eyes shut, as if to hide from the pain he felt. He ceased his steps and turned around to face her house. He loved her. He knew that much, and he'd told her. She hadn't heard him, but he told her, and that was all that mattered. He loved her, so if she wanted to have time to herself, he would give her that. He didn't know what else he could give her.

The following week, Max tried to put his emotions in check. He occupied himself with his camera, taking pictures of Alex with his guitar, the love of his prized possession clearly evident on his face. He took pictures of Isabel perking her lips into a smile while watching Alex play guitar, and pictures of Michael and Maria in a heated debate. Of course, his friends didn't know he'd taken these pictures of them. If they had known, the pictures wouldn't have been the same. He wouldn't have captured those precious moments the way they were actually portrayed. They would have been fake, and Max didn't want fakeness in his photographs. He wanted raw emotion. The raw emotion that he had found within Elizabeth Parker.

The week after that he attempted to drown the feelings coursing through his veins out by listening to music. His collection of A Perfect Circle, The Cure, Silverchair, Pearl Jam, and The Counting Crows didn't help him. They only increased his thoughts about Elizabeth Parker.

His struggle to conceal his feelings about Liz ceased after an attempted 3 weeks of letting her have time to herself. He couldn't sit around and continue wondering whether she was doing good or not. What if his not being there made her worse? What if Claudia was mad at him for leaving and not checking on Liz? He hadn't seen her in three weeks. The longest three weeks of his life.

Max was torn inside. He was confused and didn't know what to do, luckily Alex decided to drop by his house that night.

"What are you so worried about Max?"

"I just.. don't know what to say to her. I have all these thoughts in my head, but I can't bring myself to get up the nerve to talk to her. I'm afraid she'll hate me for beating up Sean or something. And I don't want her to hate me." Max said softly.

"But I thought you told Is that you just knew she didn't hate you?"

"I thought I did. But I'm not so sure anymore. She was sleeping, Alex. Only she didn't look peaceful, and I can't help thinking that the reason she didn't look peaceful was because of me. I mess everything up. I ruined our friendship all those years back, I ruined things with my mom for all those years that are now wasted, and now I'm... ruining things with Liz." Max confided.

Alex patted Max on the back.

"You know. I think you're analyzing this way too much. You should go and try to talk to her again. You're running away from things, and you should be facing up to them."

"I will do that. But I want to do something special for her first."

"Like what?" Alex asked.

"I don't know."

Alex looked at Max in wonder, and when Max saw the look of question on Alex's face he rubbed his eyes and asked,


"You're just different, Max. Before you were never like this. You just.. never seemed to care so much about people. You always seemed so bitter towards everyone."

"Yeah, until you became my friend and introduced me to music."

"You were still bitter, only bitter with good taste in music,"Alex nodded, "Ah music, the escape to infinite feelings."

"Yeah" Max smiled in rememberance.

"Remember the first time you heard Smashing Pumpkins?" Alex asked.

"Definitely. Music was like my sanctuary when I felt bad. Music and now my camera."

Alex smiled,

"Well, what can I say. Music does help to change your mood."

"Yeah.. it does." A smile creeped onto Max's lips. "I think I have an idea, Alex."

Elizabeth sat on the couch with her feet pulled underneath her, and her head resting on her arm that was casually draped over the headrest, gazing out the window.

Claudia watched her sitting there in silence. Liz didn't exactly withdraw the way she had done before. She wasn't completely in that shell of hers. She still responded with a nod or a headshake, and at least Claudia had that. Liz seemed more gloomy though, staring out the window with a look of loss in her eyes. Grandma Claudia sat down by Liz and asked very quietly,

"You miss him, don't you?"

Her slight nod and look of false hope as she lowered her eyes down to the carpet said it all. Max Evans had done what Claudia hadn't wanted him to do. He hurt Liz. Unless he had a specifically good reason for disappearing without a word, she wouldn't allow him to see her again. Liz was treading on the thin ropes of a downward spiral within herself, and if Max sparked more hurt to her granddaughter, Claudia feared that she would lose the strength to help Liz.

"Okay, let me get this straight?" Michael asked. "You're going to go and serenade Liz, and I'm supposed to wait in the bushes with your camera to take a picture of it all?"

"Yeah." Max said. "I want her reaction on film. I want that moment to be captured." He gave Michael a pleading look, "Please?"

Michael gestured over to Alex,

"Why can't he take the picture?"

"Because he's going to be playing the guitar." Michael raised an eyebrow,

"Why can't I play the guitar and HE take the picture?"

"Because well, Michael.. you have an electric guitar in which you play heavy metal music.. and an acoustic would be more fitting for the song Max has planned for Liz." Alex explained.

Michael rolled his eyes,

"So I'm supposed to be subjected to listening to corny love music while you try and swoon Liz back into your arms?"

Max shrugged

"The song I have in mind isn't exactly corny. It's.. fitting."

Michael gave him a long look before answering.

"I'll do it."

"Really?" Max asked, clearly shocked.

"Only if you leave the house tomorrow. Diane's going to be at the Shelter, and I'm going to have Maria over. I'm cooki... um.. I just want the house to ourselves. So, find something to do."

Alex blinked.

"Did Michael just say he was going to cook for Maria?"

Michael gave Alex a stern look.

"No. I didn't." He said slowly, pronouncing each word slowly and forcefully.

Max and Alex couldn't help bursting out in laughter. The thought of Michael cooking was just.. not something they could picture.

"Hey," Michael began, "Hurry up and go do your Liz thing, Maxwell. I don't have all night."

Alex was the first out the door, and Max stopped Michael quickly before leaving

"I just wanted to say thanks.. you know, for my mom and everything."

Michael played dumb, pretending he had nothing to do with that.

"Let's go."

Alex seated himself in Liz's backyard, in front of his favorite Oak tree. He already made sure that his guitar was tuned before getting there. He gave Max the thumbs-up signal to show that he was ready.

"Maxwell." Michael whispered. Max hadn't heard him. "Maxwell!" He whispered a little louder.
Max snapped his head towards an annoyed Michael fumbling with the buttons on Max's camera. "How the hell do I work this thing?"

Max walked over to him, indicating how to zoom and take the picture.

"You do know how to focus the camera, right?"

"Yeah, yah. I'm not that stupid, Maxwell."

"Just making sure." Max walked below Liz's window, and took one last glance at Alex sitting against the Oak tree and Michael behind the bushes. She wouldn't be able to see them from inside the window, which was a good thing. He didn't think she'd want to see anybody she wasn't familiar with after that ordeal with Sean and Tess.

Max cleared his throat and Alex started strumming the first chords to the song. The song that Max had picked. It represented him and Liz perfectly. His feelings of abandonment had mirrored her own; even if they were not in the same way, they were in the same sense... and the lyrics flew forth from his lips, his strong, masculine voice deepening with emotion as he began..

"And even though the moment passed me by,
I still can't turn away
'Cause all the dreams you never thought
You'd lose
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send
Get lost and thrown away"

He looked up as he sang, and saw the white drapes in Liz's room ruffle, and he started the second verse..

"And now we're grown up oprhans
That never knew their names
We don't belong to no one
That's a shame"

He saw the drapes being pulled apart, opening up the view inside as the darkness from the cool night engulfed the brightness of the candelight that shone through the window...

"You could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won't tell no one your name
And I won't tell em' your name.."

And then he saw her face, illuminated by the light of the candles, hesitantly peaking out the window...

"And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don't it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are?"

The stars seemed to brighten, as the night grew darker, and the hint of a crescent moon emerged.

"We grew up way too fast
And now there's nothing to believe
Reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
And I won't tell no one your name
And I won't tell em' your name
I won't tell em' your name"

Max's eyes started filling with the slightest hint of liquid, and he had to close them to control his emotions, but his voice grew shakier as he ended the song..

"Think about you all the time
And I don't need the same
It's lonely where you are,
Come back down
And I won't tell em your name.."

Max took a deep breath when he finished. He wanted Liz to feel safe with him, to know that she could trust him. And as he let out his breath and opened his eyes to gaze up at the light in his life... she wasn't there. If a thousand knives had stabbed him in the back, he wouldn't have felt as much hurt as he did at that moment. A sharp jolt of pain etched an unbearable ache within his heart.

His eyes grew more teary, and he turned around only to find Liz standing before him. Her long brown hair danced wildly in the wind, and her face was glowing in the light of the moon's rays. Her long white nightgown flew in the same direction as her hair.. and Max took a small step towards her, wrapping his arms gently around her small frame

"My angel." He whispered.

And Liz held onto him. Her right hand stroked the nape of his neck, easing the tension in it with the gentlest touch of her fingertips. Her left hand flew to his back, imprinting letters through his shirt... and Max realized she was spelling out


He drew her closer, encircling her tiny waist within his arms, and slowly drew his hands up to tilt her chin. He brushed his cheek along the soft skin of her pale cheek, before placing a gentle, caring kiss there, and then he whispered,

"I love you" into her ear.

She shivered at the warmth of his breath and closed her eyes. Max brushed his lips over her eye-lids, her forehead, and then finally reached her soft lips.

He kissed her hesitantly and shyly, and when he felt the gentle pressure of her lips responding to his, his instinct took over and his tongue darted out, licking the contours of her lips. The moment she parted them, his tongue gently made entrance and found hers. Their tongues danced together, a slow dance that was to be savored as if it were the last dance of the prom. And when they both pulled away, the light in Elizabeth's brown pools shone vividly, and Max saw her lips conform into a broad smile.

He closed his eyes, hoping he wasn't dreaming, and when he opened them, he was conscious of the click of a camera, and the music of Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins in the background.
Part 11

Claudia had heard the strumming of a guitar in the backyard, and the singing of a strong, powerful male voice blending beautifully with the music. She pulled on her robe and sat in the living room, looking out the window. She knew who it was, and wasn't surprised in the least to see Max Evans serenading her grand-daughter from beneath her window. She sighed, and rubbed her eyes. Max seemed to always show up and do the right things at the times she least expected it. She shook her head, but continued to smile. It wasn't up to her to decide whether Liz and Max would be together. She could no longer shield her grand-daughter from the real world, Liz would have to learn how to fend for herself. Now was the time for Liz to face reality and learn about living again. Claudia's previous attempts had all failed, and as she sat there surveying the intensity in Max's voice, and thinking of how Liz opened up so quickly because of Max, she knew that she had to let go. She had to believe in Liz enough to let her live her own life. So the last decision Claudia made was to enroll Liz in public school. But only when Liz was ready. Totally and completely ready. Claudia had a feeling that the time would come soon enough, as she noted Liz's subtle movements with Max and the two other males that stood in their backyard.

Liz's eyes sparkled, and she noticed Max looking awestruck at what was happening. The expression on his face was priceless and Liz started to giggle at his loss of coherence. He blinked, and then Alex and Michael quietly approached the two. Liz linked her right arm through Max's left arm and stood slightly behind him. Max sensed Liz's fear, and reassured her that Alex and Michael were people that she could trust. Liz finally nodded and moved to Max's side, facing the other two guys. Her face was set on the ground for a long minute, and gradually made it's way up to sweep over the two males, before returning her looked to Max. He gestured towards Alex.

"The wonderful guitarist, and my best friend, Alex..." Max proclaimed.

"Hi Liz." Alex said, a comforting smile on his lips.

Liz hesitantly smiled back and nodded. Then she awkwardly looked back to Max. He lovingly kissed her cheek, and then pointed towards Michael.

"That's Michael. My umm.. he's kind of like my brother, I guess." Max said.

Michael looked surprised for a split second but then returned to his calm, cool and collected expression.

"Hey Liz." He said casually.

Liz nodded again.

"These are my friends, Liz. They won't hurt you. And if you let them, they'll be your friends too." Max said softly.

Liz looked around and bit her lip, as if she wanted to say something but couldn't find the words. Then she blushed and looked back towards the ground. Max pulled her closer to him, and she seemed to burrow her head into the crook of his shoulder, as if to hide her face away from the two strangers. Max began running his fingers soothingly through her long brown strands of hair. Alex watched the two with a look of admiration on his face.

"Ah hem." Michael cleared his throat and Alex continued to watch the two who seemed to be in their own little world. Michael tried again, a little louder. "Ah hem." When Alex still didn't notice, Michael grabbed him by the sleeve and as quietly, yet forcefully, as he could, dragged him away.

When the two left and Max and Liz were alone, Liz's expression changed, as she rememberance of how much she suffered when he was gone returned. She slowly pulled herself out of Max's embrace, and met his eyes with a look of question in her eyes. Max started to walk towards her, ready to apologize, but she only backed away, determined to get an answer before she flew back into his welcoming arms. She silently mouthed 'why?' to him. The look of wonder and hurt in her eyes nearly killed Max. He dropped his hands limply to his sides, trying to explain.

"Liz, I.. it wasn't.. I. I didn't want you to.. I didn't know if you were mad at me.. or.. I was just.." He stopped, closed his eyes, took a breath and started again. "I was afraid you hated me. I didn't know what to do, so I did the pathetic thing, and ran away from you when I wanted nothing more than to be with you." His soulful eyes captured her brown doe ones, and she held up three fingers, signifying three weeks. He closed his eyes, unable to face the depth of pain he felt. "I'm sorry, Liz. All I could think about those three long weeks was you. Every time I saw someone smile, I'd see your smile lighting up the darkness I felt. Every time I listened to a love song, I thought of you and your gracefulness. Every time I saw a child I thought of your innocence and purity. Every time I saw a couple, I thought of us. Liz, I missed you more than anything in those three weeks and I'm ashamed of myself for doing what I did." Max started approaching her again, and this time she turned her back to him. Shutting her eyes tightly, as if to ward off the tears that were now forming.

Everything seemed to be happening so fast. The majority of her life she was living in a shell, hardly experiencing anything. This new emotion that was now forcing her out of her shell and back into the world of people made her confused and scared. She wanted to have friends. She wanted Max Evans in her life. She was just so afraid of opening up. She was afraid of giving too much, she knew that if she started anything with anyone it would be more intense than the average teenager's relationship. She seemed to have this need for Max, and as much as she wanted to hide it, she couldn't. She needed him to be there for her. She needed him to be her friend. She just.. needed him.

"Liz?" Max asked quietly as he tentatively touched her shoulder.

She flinched, caught off guard by his touch. Max winced painfully, knowing that she was afraid of his touch added tenfold to the hurt and painful emotions he was holding inside.

"If you want me to go, I will, Liz." He said softly.

Liz turned around, and Max saw the fresh tears in her eyes. She brisquely shook her head, and walked up to him, reaching up on her tip toes and wrapping her arms around his neck. He could hear her soft sniffles, and feel her tears wetting his grey t-shirt.

"Shh, Liz." He said, smoothing her hair. "I'm sorry, Liz. I'll be here for you. Please, don't cry." He gently cupped her cheeks and brushed her tears away with his thumbs. "I love you Liz... I even sang for you to prove it. And I am not one who sings on a regular basis." He chuckled, which prompted a laugh out of Liz. The first real genuine laugh Max had heard from her,and then he noticed her shivering. "It's getting cold, isn't it?" He asked. She nodded, and opened her mouth to say something.. Her lips formed an "I" but no words would come forth from, and she tried again but to no avail. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and willed herself to speak, but she couldn't. Her tongue seemed to not let her vocal chords project, and she became flustered. Her breathing started to come out in short pants and new tears of frustration filled her eyes. Her shaking continued, and Max pulled her to him. "Liz, please, don't try to talk. It's okay. Come on." He tried calming her with his words, while leading her shaking body inside her house. The whole time, trying to hide his fear as her breaths continued to come faster and faster, and she seemed to begin lacking oxygen.

He ran to the door, banging mercilessly on it.

"Claudia!" He shouted..

Liz's pale face began turning blue, and just as Claudia opened the door, her trembling subsided and she fell limply into Max's arms.
Part 12

"What happened?" Claudia asked, as she helped Max guide Liz's limp body to the couch.

"She was trying to talk and all of a sudden she just... just... started breathing fast.. and then..." Max's worry and concern was evident in his voice. "Is she going to be okay?"

Claudia grabbed a brown paper bag and placed it over Liz's nose and mouth.

"Yes, she'll be okay." Claudia said casually. She didn't need to instruct Liz on what to do, Liz started breathing deeply into the bag, and soon her breaths regulated. Liz gave the bag back to Claudia after she was sure that her breathing was normal. Now she was taking slow, deep breaths with a look of concentration etched on her face.

"Has this happened before?" Max asked.

Claudia nodded. "Sometimes, if she's feeling intense emotions, or trying too hard to push herself to do something.. she'll just lose it.. she hyperventilates. She's been doing it periodically ever since.. since Kyle.. died. It was worse when she was younger.. and then when her mother.. well, after that, she sort of stopped when she umm.. when she bottled all of her emotions inside."

Max was silent after that, holding Liz's left hand in both of his hands, and kissing her palm.

"How long will she be like this?" Max asked Claudia, never breaking his constant look over Elizabeth's frail body.

"Well, her breathing is getting back to normal. She'll just need to rest for a while." Claudia stated. The two were silent as Liz's body slowly started to gain life back, and she curled herself into a fetal position on the couch, closing her eyes and letting sleep consume her body.

"Is it safe for her to sleep right now?" Max asked.


Max nodded, but didn't let go of Liz's hand.

"Max.." Claudia began, breaking the silence. "I know you care about my grand-daughter, but do you have any idea how bad it was for her when you left her alone for 3 weeks?" Max closed his eyes as he brought his head down and kissed Liz's hand again.

"I know." He simply said. "I was being selfish at the time. I was afraid she didn't want to see me after.. the.. uh.."

"The what?" Claudia began to perk up.

"After the incident with Sean and Tess."

"Who are Sean and Tess?" She asked.

"These kids from school. They kind of scared her, I guess... and Sean was saying bad things about Elizabeth... and I kind of lost it.. and, beat him up." Max's voice became quieter as he said the last few words. He didn't know how Claudia would respond to that. He soon found out when her soft laughter was heard, warming up the dark house.

"Max, you remind me of Liz's father."

After those words, Max turned his gaze from Liz to Claudia for the first time.


"I remember back when Jeff was first with Nancy. He hardly told me anything about his girlfriends, but when he was with her.. she was always on his mind. He'd tell me about her playing guitar, her beautiful voice, and I remember whenever there were problems between the two, he'd tend to run from them. It's a good thing I was there to knock some sense into him." Claudia continued to chuckle. "The only thing I can't seem to convince him to do is.." Her voice trailed off as she looked down to Liz's sleeping form.

Max tucked a strand of Liz's hair behind her ear before standing up.

"Claudia?" He asked.

"Yes, Max?"

"Could I.. maybe stay here tonight? I just want to make sure that she's okay." He asked hesitantly.

Claudia smiled.

"I'll get some blankets and pillows."


The next morning Max woke up to the smell of freshly made waffles. He rubbed the sleep away from his eyes, and sat up, cracking his stiff back. Sleeping on the floor next to the couch Liz had been on was something he wasn't used to. He yawned, and then stood up, stretching out.

"Good morning, Max." Claudia smiled at him, as she placed 3 plates of warm waffles on the kitchen table.

"Morning." Max replied. He walked into the kitchen, seeing Liz at the freezer pulling out vanilla ice cream. He smiled when he saw her shiver from the coldness as it touched her fingers.

"Good morning, Liz." He said, as he walked over by her and asked he if could help with anything.

Liz slightly blushed, and seemed to look everywhere but into Max's eyes. Max smirked a little and Claudia laughed.

"Max, just sit down. We have everything covered."

He took a seat and watched as Liz got a scoop for the ice cream. She walked over to him and placed two scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of his waffles.

"I don't like ice cream." Max said, smirking.

Liz stood there a moment, dumbfounded. Then she gingerly reached for the plate to take it away, but Max halted her arm with his hand.

"I'm kidding, Liz."

Max got the response he was hoping for. She hit him lightly on the shoulder, rolling her eyes at him. He smiled, happy that she was finally communicating with him.

They all ate their breakfast in silence. Comfortable silence. Max couldn't seem to break his gaze away from Liz's mouth as she ate. He was beginning to become aware of her feminine power, not that he never was before, but now it seemed to be affecting him more and more. He was glad there was a table separating them so that nobody could see the affects she had on his lower anatomy.

"Liz?" Max asked. "There's this annual carnival, and I was wondering if you wanted to go there with me today."

Liz's bright smile and shining eyes was enough answer for him.

"Liz always loved carnivals." Claudia smiled.

"Great." Max responded. "I'll just have to.. go home, change, and get my camera."

"You always have that camera with you, Max." Claudia stated.

"Yeah.. well, I like capturing special moments on film." He smiled, looking at Liz. "Although, to tell
you truthfully, I wish I had my camera with me right now." Liz glanced down shyly as a hint of pinkness creeped into her cheeks. Max loved when she did that.

When Max reached his house he was surprised to find his father there.

"Hello, Son." Philip said.

How typical, Max thought. His father always called him son, as if to remind Max that he was more of a mantelpiece than an actual human being.

"Hello, father." Max replied sarcastically. His father seemed not to have noticed his sarcasm, and ruffled his hair. Max cleared his throat, "How was the business trip?"

"I won the case." Philip said casually.

"Surprise, surprise."

Philip smiled as he got a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table. He glanced at his son before saying,

"Your mother told me you're progressing."

Max looked at his father questioningly,


"Well, you know. Becoming more social."

"Right." Max said.

Michael walked into the kitchen in a white wifebeater and his red boxers, yawning.

"Michael, I presume?" Philip stated, standing up and extending his hand for Michael to shake.

"Yeah, that's me." He said, shaking Philip's hand.

"My wife told me a lot about you, Michael. I hear you're a good artist." Michael shrugged. "Well, I think that we should all have dinner together tonight. Get to know eachother." Philip suggested.

Max and Michael looked at eachother, silently communicating an exaggerated sigh.

"Actually, dad, I had plans today." Max said, and Michael continued,

"Yeah, me too."

Philip looked at his coffee mug sullenly.

"Well, Diane was taking off work tonight and wanted us all to eat together." He said, letting the
sentence linger on.

"Well, dad. I guess I can take Liz to the carnival later on tonight." Max said. He wanted to do this because his mother had wanted it.

Michael folded his arms across his chest,

"Carnival?" He asked Max.


"I guess I'll change my plans and take Maria there tonight too. Considering I'll be eating here."

"Okay." Max nodded. He felt selfish again at that moment because he wanted to be alone with Elizabeth that night.

Max called Liz's house and informed Claudia that he would be there later in the evening, around 8:00. She assured him it was okay, and he waited for what seemed like forever for the "family" dinner.

Surprisingly dinner went well. Diane seemed really happy to be bringing everyone together. Michael was quiet, but still heald his sarcastically witty demeanor, Philip made conversation, and Max enjoyed the moment. Dinner with his family was something that was a rare occurence. His father was gone most of the time, his mother rarely took off of her work, and when they had family dinners it was usually something he felt forced into. Something was changing though. He felt like he belonged in his family. He glanced at his smiling mother proudly complimenting Max's photography talent, as well as Michael's artistry.

Once dinner ended, Max and Michael piled into Max's jeep. First they picked up Maria, and she sat in the back with Michael. Max refused to glance towards the back of his jeep in fear of being scarred for life, especially after catching them making out that one day in his house. On reflection, Max found the memory funny and started chuckling to himself as he pulled into Liz's driveway. He parked his car and hopped out of the jeep.

"I'll be right back."

When she answered the door he had to do a touble take at her beauty. She looked very natural and content. Her hair was worn down, as it always was, but it seemed to have more life in it. He had this incredible desire to run his fingers through her long dark mane, and smell the silky strands. Her pale skin seemed to compliment the darkness of her hair, and she was wearing simple khakis with a black tank top that gave her the 'innocent girl next door' look.

"Liz.." He said, admiring the beauty before him. She smiled, and he continued.. "Listen, I'm sorry about having to come later, my parents wanted me and Michael to have dinner with them and.." She brought her finger to his lips to silence him, as if saying he didn't need to explain. She understood. Feeling the touch of her fingers on his lips made Max's heart melt, and a pulsing desire to spread throughout his body. Liz swiftly removed her fingers as she saw his amber eyes darken, and she felt her heart begin to beat erratically. This was a new feeling for her, and as much as it frightened her, it excited her even more.

Max took her hand in his, and began walking her to his jeep.

"Umm.. Michael and his girlfriend Maria are going with us, Liz. Is that okay?"

She nodded in the affirmative. Max smiled, opening the car door for her.

"Hey Liz." Maria said in her bubbly-like tone. "I'm Maria, and you and I, chica, are going to become good friends."

Liz smiled at Maria, actually meeting her gaze. She was astounded at Maria's forwardness and talkativeness. For some reason Liz felt that Maria would be a good friend for her. Unlike Tess, Maria seemed like she was an accepting person, and her bubbly personality was unique and different for Liz.

The four of them drove to the carnival as the radio decided to play good songs for once. Good songs that Max normally liked, but ironically, they all had lyrics that had to do with rain in them. First Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains" came on. Normally he'd be blasting the song, but instead he quietly switched the station.

"Hey, I like that song." Maria shouted from the back of the car.

Max glanced over towards Liz looking out the window.

"Sorry, Maria." He said, just as "No Rain" by Blind Melon came on. This was one of Max's favorite songs, no matter how he was feeling, this song always seemed to cheer him up. He always had this urge to dance when the song was on... but as the lyrics began...

*All I can say is that my life is very plain,
I like watching the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
And speak my point of view but it's not sane..*

Max changed the station again.

"Oh come on, Maxwell. That's one of the few mellow songs I actually like." Michael said. When Max refused to change the station back, Liz reached towards the dial and switched it back, turning up the volume.

Max looked over at her, and noticed her bopping her head to the beat.

"See, Liz likes it too. Right, chica?" Maria yelled above the noise. Liz began lip synching the song, and Max felt his heart swell. She seemed to feel the same way he did when she heard the song. Soon Maria and Michael could be heard singing with the music..

* I just want some one to say to me
I'll always be there when you wake
You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I'll have it made..*

And then Max joined in with the others, his belting out the next lyrics,

*And I don't understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there's no rain
And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away, but it's a great escape
Escape.. escape..... escape...*

There was silence in the car, followed by Michael and Maria headbanging as the last verse rolled around..

*All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
You don't like my point of view
Ya think I'm insane
It's not sane.... it's not sane...*

Once they all reached the carnival, Maria stood by Liz and whispered something into her ear. Liz's eyes sparkled as she began to giggle.

"What?" Michael asked.

"Oh, nothing Mikey G." Maria grinned. "Just telling Liz how you could never in a million years win a stuffed animal. You have very bad hand-eye coordination."

Michael glanced over to a booth. There were three pins stacked up, with a bunch of guys attempting to knock all three down with a ball.

"Yeah, cuz those games are rigged." Michael said.

"Oh yeah?" Maria asked.

"Yep." Michael responded.

"Then how come that hot guy over there just won one for his girlfriend?" Maria dared.

Michael gritted his teeth, making his way over to the booth.

Max and Liz stood by one another, watching as Michael attempted to knock the pins down. After three failed attempts, Max went up to the stand.

"Let me try." He said, and at the first try, he got it. Liz clapped encouragingly for him after he won, and he picked out a huge white teddy bear for her. She jumped up, wrapping her arms around his neck. Max held onto her tightly not wanting to let her go, he was in complete bliss just feeling her body pressed up so close to his. She kissed him on the cheek before pulling away.

"Goddammit!!" Michael yelled as he was on his fifth try. "This is a waste of my money."

Maria laughed.

"Don't worry, it was worth it to see you all pissed off like this." She grinned. When Michael glared
at her, she continued. "Hey, you're all sexy when you're pissed." Then he seemed to smirk.

Liz laughed, watching the interaction between Michael and Maria. They certainly had an odd relationship. Max took the opportunity to wrap his arms around Liz's petite waist from behind and kissed her cheek. What he really wanted to do was kiss the soft pale skin pulsing at her neck. He had to refrain himself from doing so though.

"How about we go on some rides." Max suggested to everyone. They all complied, with Max and Liz holding hands as they began leading the way to the 'Gravitron'.

"Dude, I am so not going on that ride." Maria began, "That thing gives me hardcore headaches. I mean, they are like massive migraines. It's almost as bad as when I'm on my period."

Liz laughed loudly, smiling at Maria's openness. This girl was crazy and she loved it.

"You want to come on it, Liz?"

She nodded, and Max, Michael and Liz began making their way to the ride. Maria pulled at Michael's shirt,

"You are not leaving me out here alone with all these creepy carnis around!" Maria scolded him

"Maria." Michael said.

"Michael.. they're eyeing me and it is totally freaking me out. It's like they're.."

Michael pulled Maria into his arms and began kissing her passionately, leaving an unbeknownst Max to averting his eyes. He looked to Liz,

"Shall we?" He asked. The two made their way on the machine, and once they were off, Maria and Michael were still kissing.

"Get a room." Max said, jokingly.

The couple broke apart, and Michael said,

"Good thing I decided not to go on that ride."

Maria looked to Liz saying,

"See, us girls have power." She winked.

"Come on, let's go on the Ferris Wheel." Maria suggested, pulling Michael with her. The group began walking, but were halted as a familiar voice called out to them.

"Hey! What are you guys doing here?" Alex asked as he and Isabel made their way towards the four.

"I should be asking you the same thing." Max gave Alex a knowing look.

Liz stood by Max, and Max noticed her beginning to tense up. He looked back over to Alex and Isabel. It couldn't be Alex that she was getting uncomforatble around... then he put two and two together.

"Oh, Liz. This is Isabel." He said, pointing towards Is.

"Hello." Isabel said, nodding towards Liz. Liz just smiled shyly, intimidated by Isabel's presence. The girl was tall and beautiful, she looked like she could be a model.

"Hey girlfriend." Maria said, hugging Isabel to her.

Liz smiled watching the two friends embrace.

"Are you guys going on the Ferris Wheel?" Alex asked.

"Yep, Maria's suggestion." Michael confirmed. "And we all know that when Maria wants something, she gets it." The six of them laughed, and Liz finally began feeling at ease with the now larger group. The tension in her body subsided.

"Well, I'm up for a little stargazing tonight." Alex mentioned as he glanced at Isabel dreamily. "Want to go on it?" He asked her.

She smiled, "Of course, Alex."

The three couples got in their own seats.

Alex and Isabel were watching the stars beautifully masked against the darkness of the night. Isabel's laughter could be heard from the two other couples riding in separate seats. Michael and Maria were kissing passionately, as usual. And Liz layed her head on Max's shoulder, sighing contentedly. Max took the chance to smell her hair. It was a soft and gentle smell.. almost like a baby's..

"Baby shampoo." He stated out of nowhere.

Liz looked up to him with a slight smirk on her face and the faint raise of an eyebrow.

"Your hair." He said, reaching out to smooth a strand behind her hair. "Smells just like baby shampoo."

Liz giggled and layed her head against his shoulder once again.

"It's a beautiful night, isn't it, Liz?" He asked.

She nodded, closing her eyes.

"The view is great from up here, huh?" Max asked, staring down at Liz.

She removed her head from his shoulder and looked up at him. He slowly pulled her chin upwards, bringing his mouth closer to hers, but as they parted their mouths, the Ferris Wheel stopped, and a deep voice cleared his throat.

"Time's up." The carni said.

The two got off the Ferris Wheel and joined up with the others. Maria immediately made her way over to Liz.

"See, those carnis ruin everything." She said a little too loudly, causing the Ferris Wheel worker to give her a nasty glare.

Liz laughed, sparking Max's memory. He brought his camera with him, and now was the perfect opportunity to get pictures of Liz. She seemed so happy tonight, so natural. Almost like she was beginning to fit in again. He could sense her awkwardness every once in a while when Isabel was by her, but he understood that. Isabel intimidated very many people with her cool Ice Princess demeanor. The rest of the night Max captured numerous pictures of Liz with the gang. One of his favorites was with her and Maria. The two seemed to have a silent bond. He had noticed it when he first saw them interact, when Liz met Maria's eyes. That was the first time she actually met one of his friends' eyes.

Max's thoughts returned to the previous night, with Liz trying so hard to tell him something. He wondered what she was going to say to him, and he was honored that she was attempting to talk to him. He was just worried that she would never be able to actually talk. Maybe she was so used to not speaking that her vocal chords were messed up, or that she would never be able to speak without hyperventilating.

Max turned his head towards the ground, deep in thought, but when he felt her hand gently touching his shoulder, and he looked up to see her smile of reassurance, he felt comfort. And at that moment he knew somehwere deep in his heart that one day she would talk to him. He felt it in his bones, all he had to do was be patient. Liz Parker was special, he could see it in the way she communicated with the gang and with himself. Especially with himself. Liz unknowingly taught him a lot, and at that moment he felt infinite. He could spend forever gazing into Elizabeth's innocent doe eyes, smelling the soft hint of baby shampoo in her hair, and waiting for her to speak. Max hugged Liz to himself, and Maria grabbed the camera from him.

"It's my turn to play photographer." She stated, winking. The rest of the night, Max's roll of film was full of pictures of he and Liz. Now he couldn't wait to get them developed.
Part 13

Max awoke Sunday morning to the blinding sunlight shining through his window and the sound of birds chirping. He slowly opened his eyes, rubbing the sleep away from them and yawned. He lay in bed for a while as a smirk curled his lips, thinking about the events of last night. Liz Parker was becoming more and more alive, and he had noticed her spirited side. Still shy and innocent, but spirited and just aching to be free. He got out of bed, cracked his stiff neck, and then headed downstairs for breakfast only to be greeted by his mother.

"Morning, Max. You're up early." Diane noted.

"Yeah," Max replied, unable to stifle the smile on his face. Diane poured herself some coffee and asked ever so casually,

"So.. have fun last night with Elizabeth?" Max nodded in return. Diane sat down across from him and patted him on the hand. "Maxwell, I want you to know that I love you and I'm always here for you. Okay?"

"I know that, mom." Max said, looking her in the eyes.

"I'm just so happy that we're finally.." She let the sentence trail on and Max smiled. The two of them sat in companionable silence. Mother and son just content in silently eating breakfast together. Diane collected her and Max's plates and brought them to the sink, "So Max, honey, when do I get to meet this Liz girl that you've fallen completely head over heals in love with?" Max blushed and looked down. He wasn't used to his mother and him discussing his private life and even though they were getting closer, it still felt a little awkward at times. They hadn't exactly been the bonding type.

"Umm, whenever you want." Max said, shrugging as if it were no big deal. He had wanted Liz to meet his parents, maybe his mother could help her or something. Diane smiled,

"And what about Claudia Parker. She's such a sweet lady."

"You've met her?" Max asked, surprised.

"Yes. Lately she's been outside sitting on her porch quite frequently. I've introduced myself to her and she's a lovely woman."

"Yeah, she is. Strong too."

"Well, how about tomorrow night?"

"What?" Max asked, lost in thoughts of Liz.

"Have them over for dinner tomorrow night. I'd like to meet Liz."

"Sure" Max smiled.

Liz stood in her room in front of her mirror looking at her reflection. She smiled as "Ode To My Family" by the Cranberries came on her cd player. She turned the music up louder, grabbed a brush and began combing through her long brown hair. Her thoughts were consumed by Max Evans. He was so supportive for her and she wished she could tell him how much she valued him, but she couldn't. All she could rely on were her thoughts and attempting to show him her thoughts with a gesture or a look. The time she tried to talk to him, she absolutely lost it. She couldn't even get a murmer out of her voice, let alone an actual sentence.

She set the brush down on her vanity and just stood in front of her mirror. She reached out and touched her reflection, skimming her fingers over the face in the mirror. She closed her eyes as she listened to the lyrics...

Understand the things I say, don't turn away from me,
Cause I've spent half my life out there, you wouldn't disagree.
Do you see me? Do you see? Do you like me?
Do you like me standing there? Do you notice?
Do you know? Do you see me? Do you see me?
Does anyone care.

Unhappiness where's when I was young
And we didn't give a damn,
Cause we were raised,
To see life as fun and take it if we can
My mother, my mother,
She hold me, did she hold me, when I was out there?
My father, my father
He liked me, oh he liked me
Does anyone care?

Understand what I've become, it wasn't my design
And people everywhere think, something better than I am.
Do you know you did not find me. You did not find.
Does anyone care?

Unhappiness where's when I was young
And we didn't give a damn,
Cause we were raised,
To see life as fun and take it if we can
My mother, my mother,
She hold me, did she hold me, when I was out there?
My father, my father
He liked me, oh he liked me
Does anyone care?

She took a deep breath, still tracing her hands along her reflection in the mirror, and hesitantly opened her mouth..

"I" She choked out the words, forcing herself to continue in a muffled, hardly audible voice "miss you.." Soon her vision became blurred as tears seeped into her eyes, but she finished because she had to. She had to admit out loud what she hadn't let herself admit in 5 years. "Kyle." She sniffled, wiping at her tears and looked at herself again. She swallowed the lump in her throat and went to her dresser drawer to pull out a picture. She looked down and skimmed her fingers over the faces of her mother and father. "I'm.."

Grandma Claudia walked to Liz's room and was about to knock when she heard soft crying emmitting from the room. She furrowed her grey eyebrow in question, and then heard an ever so faint "sorry" being spoken.

Claudia slowly creeked the door open to find Liz looking down at a wooden picture frame.

"Liz?" She asked as she took small, tentative steps towards her granddaughter. Liz looked up at Claudia with dried tears flecked onto her cheeks and red-rimmed, puffy eyes. And then Claudia heard it, and her prayers for the past 5 years had been answered.

"I'm... sorry," Liz's speaking was slow, and she struggled with the words, forcing them out.. "grandma."

Claudia clutched at her chest where her heart was and gasped in awe. She stood frozen in place, shocked at hearing the voice she hadn't heard in so long. However muffled and quiet it was, she didn't care. Her granddaughter was speaking. The next thing Claudia knew, Liz was hugging her tightly and repeating the words, "I'm sorry" over and over again. Each time coming out faster, but soon sobbing overtook Liz's small frame, and she started breathing hard again.

Claudia guided Liz to the kitchen and grabbed a brown paper bag for her to breathe in. She sat down with Liz next to her, soothingly smoothing down her hair in an effort to help calm Liz as she breathed steadily into the bag. Claudia cleared her throat and began humming a melody from long ago.

Liz's ragged breathing soon commenced to normality when she heard the soft humming her mother used to sing when playing her guitar. Liz looked to her grandmother, and she became completely relaxed in the memory of her mom.

Max stepped outside with his camera and two rolls of film that were in harsh need of being developed in his hands. He looked across the street and smiled at the house with the white picket fence that belonged to Elizabeth. His mother and Alex were right, he had it bad for her. Never before had someone affected him so much, so deeply.

He glanced around at the beautiful red and brown leaves falling from the trees that cluttered their suburban home. He inhaled deeply, taking in the crisp sent of fall. Fall was one of his favorite seasons. The season where beautiful colors masked the neighborhood, and he could hear the leaves crunching beneath his feet. Being a photographer, he'd grown to admire seasons, and the changing of seasons. Fall was exceptional for landscapes, as colors miraculously changed from green to brown to red and faded. Winter was wonderful for the glistening frehsly fallen snow that covered the houses and sparkled when the streaks of the sun's rays seeped onto the white blanket. Spring was wonderful for all the blooming flowers, and various birds he could capture in their natural sense of freedom; and then summer, summer was the season for fun. The season best in capturing people. People swimming, people walking, people eating ice cream at the park.

As Max developed the pictures from his film he couldn't help but feel love in his heart and complete happiness for all those pictures of he and Liz. They looked so natural together. As an observer, he could read expressions good, and what he saw in those pictures was equivalent love. Liz's eyes sparkled and a shy smile would grace her beautiful lips. His eyes focused on her in glowing adoration, and in others her head would be resting on his shoulder and he'd have his arm wrapped casually around her waist.

The pictures of the night he serenaded her were the best. Michael certainly snapped the pictures at the right moment. Max saw he and Liz's first kiss, and his hands running through her hair the was blowing in the wind along with her white nightgown. He saw the tears in Liz's eyes, tears of happiness and joy, and an overwhelming sense of gratefulness consumed his heart.

The pictures of the group were fun. He couldn't help but laugh at some of the pictures, and admire the friendship he sensed from them. Liz's smile was broad and genuine, her face glowed with laughter as she stood by Maria who was sticking her tongue out at the camera. In another Maria had hopped onto Michael's back and the surprise was evident on Michael's face while Liz stood in the middle of a starry eyed Alex and Isabel gazing at eachother.

The pictures of Liz alone were beautiful. She had a natural gracefulness and it was obvious that the camera loved her. Her simplicity and innocence was captured so eloquently that he'd find himself needing sharp intakes of breath to calm himself from the beauty that wasn't nearly captured enough in just a picture.

As he came across one picture though, his smile faded. Liz had a slight smile on her face, but the smile looked forced, and her eyes held a deep sadness in them. Max wondered how he hadn't noticed that expression on her face before. Clearly, she still had moments of the past that plagued her mind.

Max realized then that he couldn't just make everything go away for her. It was she who had to cope with the loss of her family. The loss of her twin brother and the loss of her mother. And even the loss of her father. Max hated thinking about Liz's horrible past that she didn't deserve. It was up to Liz to open up to him about it though; and the scary thing was, when she did, he wouldn't know what to do. He was never good with words, and he wasn't in the same kind of situation that Liz was. Of course he knew about what she went through, but he didn't know what was going on in her mind about everything. She had blocked out everything before by retreating into herself, and yes, she was opening up at an astounding rate, but what would happen if some freak thing were to set her off. Something worse than Sean and Tess.
Part 14

Max was growing nervous just waiting for the digital clock in his room to say 6:00. It was only 5:30, and he had just come to the realization that Liz had never even been inside his house before. They were usually either out in the park or at Liz's. He was worried about his parents meeting her. His mom knew that Liz had gone through some bad times and wouldn't talk, but she didn't know the specifics and he hoped she wouldn't try and get any information out of Liz considering her tendency to want to help people. His dad didn't know anything about Liz, just that she was the woman in his life. His thoughts were consumed with the worst of possibilities. He had this knawing feeling that something bad was going to happen. Things were going too well, and nothing good could last forever.

Max clenched his jaw and tried to rid his mind of his pessimistic thoughts as he glanced at the clock. 5:38. He sighed, running his hand through his short brown hair. He stood up, walking towards his dresser, and bent down to his bottom drawer to retrieve all the pictures he took. He separated them in different piles. Family, friends, Liz, scenery, people, and emotions. The procedure helped to cease his horrible thoughts as he sorted through the pictures, remembering the moment he took each and every one of them. Looking at pictures was always soothing for Max, and the knowledge that he accomplished to capture these moments how they were in actuality, not through fakeness. Not in one single picture did someone look like they had posed for a shot, they all looked completely natural. His favorite pictures, other than all of Liz's, were the emotional ones. He felt enthralled when looking at the sincerity, love, hate, anger, sadness, happiness and beauty in all the pictures.

"Maxwell!" Diane's voice echoed through his room. Max glanced at the clock. 5:55. He hurriedly shoved all the pictures in their appropriate categories and put them back in his drawer.

Max ran downstairs, almost tripping on the way, only to find that Liz wasn't there. When his mother noticed the questioning look on his face she laughed.

"Calm down, honey. I just wanted to ask you something."

"Oh," Max said, releasing a breath.

"Has Elizabeth made any.. progress?"

"Mom.. please, don't do this." Max pleaded.

"Do what?"

"Try and drill information out of her. She's... I just don't want this to turn into a 'try and help Liz Parker' intervention. I don't want her to think that I'm pushing her to do anything..."

As Max continued to ramble on, he stopped once he felt his mother's hand on his wrist.

"Okay, Max. I won't. I'll treat her like a normal girlfriend." Diane smirked.

"Thanks mom."

"Well, they should be here any minute now" Diane said while wiping her hands on her apron.

"Yeah." Max replied, pacing around the kitchen.

Michael came into the room.

"Maxwell, a little fidgety much?" He asked mockingly. Max rolled his eyes but continued to pace. "Diane, what are we having for dinner?"

"Chicken Catchetori". She smiled.

"Sounds good." Michael said, reaching in the fridge and pulling out a can of coke. As he was leaving the kitchen he slapped Max playfully on the back and said "Max. Be a man, toughen up."

"At least I don't plan a cooking evening for Liz." Michael blushed slightly before appearing unfazed.

"Maybe not, but you're still whipped." He smirked, and left the room while Max shouted back

"I'm not the only one, Mikey G."

Diane rolled her eyes.

"Boys will be boys." Just then, the doorbell rang and Max rushed to open it, but Diane beat him to it. "Nuh-uh. I'm the hostess." She smiled. Max just laughed, and stood by his mother as she opened it and welcomed Claudia and Liz in.

Max was awestruck when he saw Liz in a pale pink sweater with navy blue hip-hugger jeans on. She looked so cute and innocent, and as she shyly smiled, he exhaled a breath before taking her hand in his and leaning forward to kiss her lightly on the cheek.

"Hey." He smiled, pulling her gently over by his side. "Mom, this is Liz, Liz this is my mother."

Diane smiled, extending a hand for Liz to shake. Liz's smile lit up the room and entered the heart of Diane Evans.

"You've made Max so happy, Elizabeth." Diane said with sincerity in her voice, she could tell just from looking at Liz's deep brown eyes that she was a wonderful girl.

"Come on in." Diane said, as she took hold of Claudia's hand and lead the way into the living room. "It's nice to see you again, Claudia."

"Thank you for inviting us." Claudia smiled, allowing Diane to see the resemblance between grandmother and granddaughter. Claudia took a seat on the expensive black leather couch in the living room.

"Oh my.." She stated, glancing at the wall. "Lovely pictures."

"Yes, all were taken by Max." Diane smiled, proud of her son.

"Your house is very modern." Claudia noted and Diane laughed.

"Max, honey, why don't you show Liz around the house." Diane suggested.

Max looked into Liz's face and her expression lit up.

"Come on." He said.

When Liz saw the dining room, she released her hold of Max's hand and ran over to the old grand piano. A gasp of awe was emmitted from her lips and Max smiled, coming up behind her back, brushing his right arm lightly around her waist as his fingers touched the keys, making a loud, prominent sound echo through the room. Liz looked up to his face, smiling with glee, and he reached his other arm around her waist and placed his hands on the keys, playing Scarborough Fair. Liz immediately recognized the song, only wishing she could hear him sing it. And as if he could read her mind, his voice sprang to life

"Are you going to Scarborough Fair
Parsly, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to the one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine."

"Tell her to make me a cambric shirt
Parsly, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seam or needlework
Then she'll be a true love of mine."

"Tell her to find me an acre of land
Parsly, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the sea and over the sand
Then she'll be a true love of mine..."

Once Max finished the song, Liz looked at him with adoration in her sparkling brown eyes. She turned around in his arms and hugged him tightly, kissing him lightly on the lips. He smiled against her lips, and then once she pulled away she looked into his eyes.

"I used to take piano lessons. I was a little rusty, haven't played in a long time." He chuckled. Liz just continued to look at him in awe, then she reached her hand down and grabbed his from around her waist, intertwining their fingers.

The last room Max showed her was his. Liz walked in timidly, and the first thing she noticed was the smell. His smell. She looked around the room, and focused her eyes on the framed pictures on his dresser. She walked to his dresser and picked one up, examining it.

"That was me when I was little." He blushed. "There's my mom and my dad." A look of sadness shown on Liz's features, before being takien over with happiness. For the millionth time Max wished he could hear her voice, ask her about everything, but there was nothing he could do.

"Liz.." He started.

Liz's face turned towards the door, and when Max followed her gaze he saw Michael waiting there patiently.

"Max, time for dinner." Michael smirked.

Max could have killed him.

They all went to their respective seats, with Philip at the head of the table, Diane opposite of Philip, Michael next to Claudia and Liz next to Max.

"Liz, you're a beautiful young lady." Philip said politely. Her response was a shy smile and Max reached for her hand underneath the table. She squeezed his hand, and he gave her a reassuring smile. Liz had to hold herself back from kissing him, from letting him know just how much she cared. She listened as Diane gushed about Max when he was younger.

"He was such a smart-ass. He always knew how to get on the teachers nerves." Diane laughed.

"Mom." Max said prominently, blushing while he did so. Liz looked at his face, smiling, and she curled one leg underneath her, feeling more comfortable and getting more into the stories that Diane told her.

"Well, Liz was a big dreamer when she was younger. At one point she wanted to be a singer, at one time an astronaut, at one time a ballerina. She used to dress up in her pink tutu prancing around the house attempting plies." Claudia smiled at the memory, and when Max glanced to Liz he found her blushing. He chuckled lightly and could't resist kissing her cheek.

The laughter from the table was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. "Excuse me." Philip said, wiping his mouth with his napkin and getting up from the table. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone and went into the other room. Seconds later he came back into the kitchen apologizing.

"I'm sorry to have to leave so soon but a client called and I need to meet him."

"It's okay honey." Diane said, skillfully putting on her fake smile. "We understand."

"I'll be home as soon as I can," Philip said, kissing Diane on the cheek and grabbing his coat.

"It was wonderful to meet you Claudia and Liz." He smiled before walking out the door.

After dinner, Michael left to go to Maria's, and Max and Liz huddled together on the love seat, while Diane and Claudia told more stories.

"Oh." Diane shot up from her seat, "I'll be right back." Max had a bad feeling, and was right when he saw his mom return with a big photo album. She smiled slyly at Max, knowing how embarassed he'd be by this. Diane handed the photo album to Liz, pointing to the pictures of a naked Max as a baby. He was crawling around with a blanket in his hand looking at everything curiously. "He was always very inquisitive. Liked to study and observe everything." Diane smiled, and Max turned a beet red. He ran a hand through his hair, clearly embarassed, trying to hide his face; but when he heard Liz's soft, breathy laughing his heart nearly melted.

Max didn't want Liz to leave when he saw her and Claudia getting up from their seats.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay longer?" He asked anxiously, "We can make coffee or something."

Diane laughed,

"Max, since when have you become the perfect host?"

Claudia laughed,

"Well, Max. I'm tired and should really be getting home, but I'm sure Liz would like to stay."

Liz nodded happily, before reaching forward and hugging her grandmother gratefully.

"Come over anytime, Claudia." Diane smiled.

"Likewise." Claudia replied.

Max sat up on his bed, with his back to the headboard and Liz curled up on his lap, resting her
head on his chest. He ran his fingers through her luxuriant mane, revelling in it's silky softness.

"I love your hair." Max whispered, inhaling her scent and kissing the crown of her head. They sat there content in the silence, just holding eachother. Max couldn't seem to shake the image he saw of Liz in that picture. The sadness hidden behind her forced smile. "Liz.." She turned her head up to look into his eyes and he continued. "You mean so much to me. And you've done so much for me that I don't think you even realize." He sighed, "But I can't do anything for you. I just, I want to be here for you, to be your shoulder to cry on when you need it, to be the person you can confide in. I want you to trust me, Liz." Max took a breath. "I just.. I wish I could, I wish I could hear your voice." Liz looked at his amber eyes flecked with gold that held a look of helplessness. She swallowed, placing her hand on his chin to turn his head so he could look into her eyes. Her eyes were dark and deep, and they seemed to be glowing, but Max realized the glow in her eyes were slight, misty tears. She placed her tender hand on his cheek before moving it behind his neck and leaning forward to kiss him. Her lips brushed against his softly, and when he thought she was going to pull away, he felt her deepen the kiss. Her other arm locked around his back, pulling him closer to her, and her kiss was full of need. A need that showed him that she needed him. Her kiss was full of gratefullness. A gratefullness that showed him that she was grateful to have him in her life. But mostly, her kiss was full of promise, a promise he returned as he opened his mouth and gently sucked on her upper lip. When they finally broke apart, he peppered her face with soft butterfly kisses on her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks and her lastly returning to her lips.

"Thank you." He said, pulling her into his warm embrace. "I know you love me, it's just so hard sometimes not knowing what you're thinking." Liz rested her head against his chest, hearing the pounding of his heart, and she spotted a paper and a pen on his desk. She gently pulled away from his touch, and his heart sank. "Liz?" He questioned.

She went to his desk, grabbed the pen and wrote something down. When she returned to him, she handed him the folded piece of paper. He slowly unfolded it, never leaving the softness of her doe eyes, until she nodded in reassurance for him to read it.

Right now I'm thinking about how much I love you. How you make me feel. How you've changed me. Max, I don't think you realize what you are to me. I'm sorry I can't tell you all this, it's just so hard to say it. And sometimes I do want to confide in you so bad that it hurts, but I can't.. because I can't talk. So, from now on I'll write it down. I want you in my life, I want you to be everything you said you'd be. You're right, I don't realize what I am to you, but when you tell me all these things and I hear the love in your voice I feel ashamed that I can't return those words with words of my own. I'm sorry, Max.

Max returned his gaze to her, she was looking down at the ground, biting her lip, with her hands clasped nervously together.

"Liz.." He began, getting up from the bed. "Oh God, Liz." He wrapped his arms around her and rested his forehead against hers. "Don't be ashamed." He grabbed her hand, kissing her lightly on the palm before placing it on his heart. "I love you so much that it hurts. I can't believe how lucky I am to have found you. You're... you're so sweet and caring, and as much as I want to hear your beautiful voice, I can wait. I can read your thoughts now, Liz. We think the same thing." He ended his words with a long, lingering kiss.